Almost 20 years since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Cortland Police Chief Paul Sandy remains a bit emotional.
“It brings up some horrific memories of the newscasts that were going on that day and the numbers of innocent people that lost their lives,” he said.
There were many heroic acts as well from first responders and rescuers at the scene of the Twin Towers, but with the Taliban’s recent takeover of Afghanistan, a country it had previously controlled, 20 years after the U.S. invaded in search of Osama bin Laden, there’s almost a surreal feeling leading up to Saturday’s anniversary.
The nearly 3,000 people who died from the attacks on 9/11 will be honored Saturday in ceremonies in Cortland, Homer and Dryden.
- Cortland: 8:30 a.m. at Courthouse Park.
- Homer: 8:30 a.m. at the village 9/11 memorial on Main Street.
- Dryden: 8 a.m. in front of Neptune Hose Co. on North Street.
- SUNY Cortland: Beginning at 9 a.m. on social media.
Sandy said he was returning to the Cortland police station on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when he saw people huddled around a TV watching the events unfold on the news.
“Obviously, we were thinking something had gone wrong with the controls,” he said of the first crash.
After the second plane hit, he knew this wasn’t an accident.
In the following days, Sandy said he was filled with disbelief that this could happen to the most powerful country in the world. The days following also brought out a great sense of connection between citizens as they worked together in the aftermath, Homer Police Chief Robert Pitman said.
“You were proud to be an American,” he said.
Pitman, a member of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office at the time, was monitoring a strike at Crucible Industries in Syracuse when he received a call from his wife about the attacks.
The workers striking, getting word of the attacks, stopped and started watching the news, Pitman said. The skies grew quiet, where planes normally filled the air coming into and leaving Syracuse Hancock International Airport.
“It was odd,” Pitman said. “There were no planes.”
Pitman would later travel to Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island to search through rubble from the attacks for personal possessions, he said.
With an unsettled future in Afghanistan following the U.S.’s withdrawal of troops and the Taliban’s takeover, Sandy said the focus should be on those who died that day and operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom that followed.
“Hopefully these lives and sacrifices have not been in vain with our departure from Afghanistan,” he said.
Church Street will close to traffic from Central Avenue to Port Watson Street ahead of the 8:30 a.m. ceremony at Courthouse Park, Sandy said.
Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin, state Sen. Peter Oberacker (R-Schenevus) and New York Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Gary Yaple will speak, and a 21-gun salute will be fired.
Area servicemen Cpl. Christopher Bordoni — who died in 2012 of wounds sustained in Afghanistan — and Pfc. Shawn Falter — who died in 2007 when his patrol was ambushed in Karbala, Iraq — will be honored as well. SUNY Cortland alumni David Garcia, who worked and was killed in one of the towers, will also be honored.
Police and firefighters will attend. The ceremony is open to the public, but wear a mask and socially distance where possible.
The village of Homer will have a memorial event at 8:30a.m. at the village’s 9/11 memorial next to the Homer fire station on South Main Street, according to a joint release from the Homer police and fire departments.
An opening Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Patrick Kelley, a Homer resident who was deployed to New York City with the New York Army National Guard following the attacks, said Homer Police Chief Robert Pitman. Cortland County District Attorney Patrick Perfetti will be the guest speaker, recounting his experience that day while a member of the Navy Reserves.
The 9/11 radio transmissions from the Fire Department of the City of New York will be played as well, Pitman said.
Following the ceremony, the American Legion Post 465 in Homer will serve refreshments at the lodge next door.
Local law enforcement and fire officials will also speak of their experiences responding to the attacks after the ceremony at the CNY Living History Museum on Route 11 in Cortlandville.
A memorial ceremony will be 8 a.m. in front of the Neptune Hose Co. No. 1 station at 26 North St., states a post Sunday on the department’s Facebook page.
Further details were to be given closer to the event date.
Fire Chief Mike Hall could not be reached for details.
Biographies of the seven SUNY Cortland alumni who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, will be posted on the university’s alumni association’s social media pages each hour, starting at 9a.m., the college announced.
The biographies will also be posted on the Red Dragon Network.
The Lynne Parks ‘68 Alumni House will keep a candle lit throughout the day.
Flameless candles and flowers will also be put near the first floor Miller Building monument for the seven who died as well.