In front of Barnegat Township municipal hall stands a reminder of one of the most tragic events in history, which - similar to the tragic event yesterday - brought many across the world together in grief and reflection.
It is with the spirit of reflection in mind, that township officials planned a memorial to 9/11 - which includes a beam from the World Trade Center - and a dedication for that memorial earlier today.
The dedication was originally planned for Sept. 11 of this year, but township officials said the event was postponed because almost all of the materials and labor for the memorial were donated, and the volunteers handling these materials were delayed with paying projects. Then Sandy hit, and work was diverted once again. At the Township Committee meeting held last week, Mayor Al Cirulli said the dedication would be held Dec. 15.
This memorial is actually the second in the township. The first was placed on the Barnegat Township High School grounds in August of 2011.
In a town with so many residents who survived the aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade towers – 15 9/11 first responders call Barnegat home – it was felt to be very important to have a memorial to remind people of the tragedy and heroism of that day, Charlie Giles, a resident and first responder who was instrumental in bringing both memorials to the town, told Patch at the first dedication.
But, the first memorial was placed in an area that was not easily accessible after school times, and Mayor Cirulli and other township officials said they wanted a memorial in front of the township building that would be accessible at all times.
It was this controversy that led several in town to question why a second memorial was needed. Much of the controversy centered on Giles himself. Giles said the same controversial truck that transported a tower piece recovered from the wreckage of Ground Zero to the high school last year escorted the township truck that brought this piece to the township as well.
The men that drove the truck, Thomas J. Scalgione, 40, of Manahawkin and Mark Anthony Niemczyk, 66, of Tinton Falls were recently ordered to disgorge $121,116 in donations, pay civil penalties and are permanently barred from working for any charitable organization in New Jersey after they were found to be operating a bogus charity that claimed to be supporting the families of emergency responders who died at the World Trade Center on 9-11. Some have questioned how these men came to be involved in the transport of the pieces, and blame Giles' for contacting them in the first place.
Cirulli said in an interview with Patch that he hopes that despite the fact that some of the people involved in bringing both pieces to Barnegat have been marred in controversy, that it will not negatively impact the memorial's overall message.
"This is an event we should never forget, and then all this stuff started, and it became so disrespectful," Cirulli said. "I would hope that it wouldn't dishonor the memory of this place."
The message of never forgetting was a common theme of many speeches delivered during the dedication, including a keynote address delivered by New York fireman Salvatore Velez, and 9/11 first responder and Barnegat Townshp police officer Stephen Tatur.
Cirulli also paused for a moment during the memorial to recognize the victims of the tragic events of yesterday, as well.
"I'm so happy to see this memorial, right in the center of town, so that people are always reminded and never forget the heroes of that day," Velez said.
Tatur said the memorial should serve as a reminder of the sacrifices that all emergency personnel make to protect and serve the public.
Other participants included Ms. Margie Smith, who is the widow of a 9/11 first responder, Harold Smith, and other emergency personnel and local officials.
The event ended with nearly everyone at the event singing "God Bless America" together with lead vocalist, Rachel Nokes.