Updated 10:36 pm, Monday, September 11, 2017
WEST HAVEN >> The terrorists who attacked the United States using our own commercial airliners 16 years ago lost in more ways than one, several speakers said Monday at the city’s annual Sept. 11 memorial — with West Haven Fire Chief Jim O’Brien pointing out that people come out every year “not to remember the horrors of that day,” but to remember “the heroism of that day.”
“This is a day that will always live on,” Chief O’Brien told about 200 people during a sunset ceremony to commemorate Sept. 11, 2001, at the William A. Soderman Memorial Flagpole on West Haven’s “Veterans Walk Of Honor” in Bradley Point Park.
He pointed out that the people who died — including 343 New York firefighters — “were everyday people ... doing an everyday thing: going to work.”
But ultimately, the 19 attackers who killed a total of 2,996 people — 2,606 in the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City, 125 in the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and 246, including themselves, on the four planes — failed, said Chief O’Brien, who also is West Haven’s City Council chairman.
“The terrorists wanted to destroy our society. They wanted to destroy our people,” he said.
But instead, the act was greeted “with unity and patriotism,” said O’Brien, who was joined at the ceremony by City of West Haven Fire Department — Allingtown Acting Chief Michael Esposito and West Shore Fire Department Chief Stephen Scafariello.
The ceremony was followed by a candlelight vigil at the nearby Richard S. Gabrielle Sept. 11 memorial on the shorefront walkway next to the Savin Rock Conference Center. Gabrielle, who worked in the World Trade Center complex, was West Haven’s only victim of the attacks. An insurance broker at Aon Corp., Gabrielle, 50, was last seen on the World Trade Center south tower’s 78th floor.
“On this day 16 years ago, we were attacked,” said Chief of Police John Karajanis Jr. “But the real attack was on our principals, our values.”
But “what they failed to destroy” was something that they did not understand, however, “because it is not a thing,” Karajanis said. “It is something deeply ingrained in us.”
Mayor Ed O’Brien said, “It is so important that we are here. I am so very, very proud to be mayor of West Haven” at a time like this, facing a crowd like this.
O’Brien said that as he went about his business Monday, the one thing that kept going through his head was “never forget.” He also recalled that ever since the attacks, “we’ve had many armed services members protecting our country.”
Mayor O’Brien was joined at the ceremony by both of his mayoral opponents — Democrat Nancy Rossi, who will face him in a primary Tuesday, and Republican Councilman David Riccio, who will face the winner in the Nov. 7 General Election.
Other speakers included Master of Ceremonies and the mayor’s Executive Assistant John Lewis, state Reps. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, and Michael DiMassa, D-West Haven, aide to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy Ben Florsheim and the Rev. Victor Borras of Gateway Christian Fellowship, who said a rememberance prayer.
State Rep. Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, attended but did not speak, as did several City Council members.
West Haven High School freshman Nora Mullins sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the New Haven County Firefighters Emerald Society Pipes and and Drums played “America the Beautiful” and retired West Shore Fire Department Kevin McKeon played “Taps.”
The memorial service began with a presentation of the colors by the West Haven Police Color Guard and a flag-raising by the West Haven Fire Department Honor Guard and the New Haven County Firefighters Emerald Society Pipes and Drums.
Among the people who came out were West Haveners and Vietnam veterans Al Perr and Dennis Bacinello, who grew up and served together.
“We’re here mainly because of 9/11, for one, and becaue we are Vietnam vets,” said Perr, who said he lost a friend who was on the 27th floor of one of the Twin Towers. On Sept. 11, 2001, “we were under attack, just like we were in ’Nam.”
Bacinello said it felt good to see so many people come out to commemorate what happened. “You’ve got to understand something. We’re Americans,” he said. “We’re the toughest people on this Earth.”