Remembering 9/11: A Morris Plains ceremony, a Morristown concert…and a personal reflection

A large crowd applauds Mozart's 'Requiem,' performed as a 9/11 memorial in Morristown by the Schiller Institute NYC Chorus. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A large crowd applauds Mozart's 'Requiem,' performed as a 9/11 memorial in Presbyterian Church in Morristown, by the Schiller Institute NYC Chorus. Photo by Kevin Coughlin, 9/12/16
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Plaque at Morris Plains 9/11 memorial. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Plaque at Morris Plains 9/11 memorial. Photo by Berit Ollestad

By Berit Ollestad

Morris Plains schoolchildren born long after Sept. 11, 2001, got a civics lesson on Monday. Later, a choir in Morristown honored victims of the terror attacks with a performance of Mozart’s Requiem.

Schoolchildren visit WTC wreckage at Morris Plains 9/11 memorial. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Schoolchildren visit WTC wreckage at Morris Plains 9/11 memorial. Photo by Berit Ollestad

“It was a day much like today 15 years ago. The skies were blue and the sun was shining when terrorists murdered over 3,000 of our citizens in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, PA,” Morris Plains Mayor Frank Druetzler told pupils from the Borough School.

Officials scheduled the somber ceremony at the municipality’s 9/11 memorial park for the day after the actual anniversary, so schoolchildren could participate.

“In just under two hours our world changed forever. Not only did we lose a tremendous amount of lives, but we also lost two iconic buildings in New York. But most of all, we lost our national sense of invincibility on that dreadful day,” Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) said in the shadow of a charred beam from the World Trade Center.

“That day also united our country as well. It’s important for the children to witness this beautiful day and for them to know that the U.S. came back even stronger and more unified than before,” the congressman said.

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) addresses 9/11 service in Morris Plains; Mayor Frank Druetzler listens. Photo by Berit Ollestad
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) addresses 9/11 service in Morris Plains; Mayor Frank Druetzler listens. Photo by Berit Ollestad

Borough School Principal Andrew Kramar added: “It was your freedom they were attacking that day. The terrorists tried to drive out the love in our country and replace it with hate.

“It’s our responsibility to become a stronger community here in Morris Plains. We can achieve that by being respectful to one another. By treating others with dignity and by practicing tolerance for people’s differences,” Kramar said.

The Mayor encouraged people to take the time to thank a police officer, firefighter or veteran for protecting them.

“It’s important to keep the memory alive in the minds of the children. They need to hear the stories and know exactly where this piece of twisted steel came from,” Druetzler said of the North Tower remains.

“I don’t want them driving by wondering what it is. That’s why we feel it’s so important to include the students each year in the Sept. 11th ceremony,” he said, thanking Kramar, Susan Vere and Richard Hilton of the Morris Plains School District for helping prepare the program.

One of the flags flying at half mast only is displayed at this annual event. It’s the flag that flew over Ground Zero in 2011 to commence the building of the Freedom Tower.

The Schiller Institute NYC Community Chorus performs Mozart's 'Requiem' at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Schiller Institute NYC Community Chorus performs Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

A CONCERT, AND AN APPEAL

Monday evening’s concert, presented by the  Foundation for the Revival of Classical Culture at the Presbyterian Church in Morrristown, featured a large chorus and a 40-piece orchestra and was dedicated to “all victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and its aftermath.”

The Schiller Institute NYC Chorus sings Mozart's 'Requiem' as a 9/11 memorial. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Schiller Institute NYC Chorus sings Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ in Morristown as a 9/11 memorial. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Mozart’s Requiem is “one of the most fitting ways of commemorating not just the death of these victims, but also their lives, because Mozart was very much about life, not death,” said John Sigerson, director of the Schiller Institute NYC Community Chorus.

The institute was started by the wife of Lyndon LaRouche, the controversial activist and former presidential candidate. A political appeal preceded the performance.

Terry Strada,  widow of 9/11 victim Tom Strada, urged the audience to support JASTA, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, which would enable 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia.

John Sigerson conducts Mozart 'Requiem' in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
John Sigerson conducts Mozart ‘Requiem’ in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Both houses of Congress unanimously approved the measure. But the Saudis have threatened to sell U.S. assets in response, and President Obama may veto the bill out of concerns it will complicate diplomacy.

The Schiller Institute has been waging a political battle of its own, trying for nearly a quarter century to persuade orchestras to use a “Verdi tuning” that is a half-step lower than the modern standard.

Sigerson said it’s more conducive to bel canto singing.  He may have won some converts on Monday night; Requiem brought spectators to their feet.

–Kevin Coughlin contributed to this report

A large crowd applauds Mozart's 'Requiem,' performed as a 9/11 memorial in Morristown by the Schiller Institute NYC Chorus. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A large crowd applauds Mozart’s ‘Requiem,’ performed as a 9/11 memorial in Presbyterian Church in Morristown, by the Schiller Institute NYC Chorus. Photo by Kevin Coughlin, 9/12/16

NEVER FORGET

By Jeff Sovelove

On the morning of 9/11 I was working in the Merchandise Information Office at Macy’s on 34th street in NYC.

We were in a quarterly departmental meeting for the entire division when it became evident that something was very wrong.

People came running in to confer with senior management before running out, not even bothering to close the door softly behind them.

Jeff Sovelove. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Jeff Sovelove in 2016. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Unease began to  go around the room as our Group Senior VP stopped the meeting and announced that the World Trade Center had been hit by an aircraft.

He told us that nobody knew how or why, but urged us to take care of whatever we needed to and to make sure that our loved ones were safe.

A number of us ran down the stairs to our offices on 11 to find out what was going on, not wanting to wait for an elevator.  Several people I hadn’t spoken to in years called me to make sure I was OK, then the phones went out.

By that time everyone was nearly frantic, so we went down to the 8th floor employee cafeteria to watch the TVs there.  I arrived just in time to see the second plane slam into the tower.  There was complete silence as several hundred of us stood in complete shock, not wanting to think the worst, that this was a deliberate attack.

A few of my co-workers and I went up to the 19th floor and climbed the stairs up to 20.  We stood there and watched the towers burn.  Even the Dobermans, Macy’s guard dogs, weren’t barking as they normally would have.  We still watched in silence, shocked to our core.

Since the towers were too far to see much, we went back to the cafeteria in time to see the towers fall.  There was the occasional gasp or sob, but for the most part everyone stood in shocked silence.  There was an almost total lack of information, since no one in the company had access to the Internet or to outside email.

Not long after that we were released to go home, even though many of didn’t know if or how we would get home since all of the bridges and tunnels were closed.

Eventually we walked down the the pier where the Circle Line was running boats as free ferries across the river.  We stood in line with several thousand people, waiting in the hot sun, but nobody complained.  Virtually nobody spoke.  We were all too numb and trying to comprehend what we’d just seen.

We then walked from Weehawken to Hoboken, to hopefully board a train to get home.  Along the way firefighters in Weehawken were giving out water and asking if anyone was injured.  I can only imagine how powerless they felt that day and their overwhelming urge to do something, anything to help.

After waiting several hours on the packed platform I was finally able to board a train where the kind man sitting next to me let me use his cell phone so I could call my father to let him know I was fine.  Several people on the train offered to let anyone who didn’t have one use their cell phones if they needed to.

When the train finally left the station the conductors didn’t even take tickets; they went from car to car asking if anyone was injured or needed medical help.  Police boarded the train at each stop asking if anyone needed any help.  I also couldn’t help keeping track of the cars parked at the station that hadn’t moved in the following days, thinking that those people had probably died on 9/11.

What I remember most about that day is the utter silence, shocked numb silence everywhere.  We just couldn’t imagine such a thing happening in our country.  I also remember the small acts of kindness, the firefighters handing out water, the gentleman who let me use his cell phone, the way everyone tried to help others in any way they could.

Never forget.

           Morris Township resident Jeff Sovelove is a frequent contributor to MorristownGreen.com

 

 

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