Saturday marked 20 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. From Westport to the West Coast, ceremonies recalled that tragic day.
Here’s another 9/11 story. Though a couple of days old, it’s still timely.
A new memorial in Fairfield honors the nearly 3,000 victims killed, at 3 separate sites. It’s housed at historic Oak Lawn Cemetery & Arboretum — a 100-acre site where people have remembered loved ones for more than 150 years.
The new memorial — a pair of 9-foot granite towers atop a pentagon-shaped granite base, with a rock engraved with “Let’s Roll” that honors the heroes of Flight 93 — is impressive.
Oak Lawn cemetery’s granite towers. (Screenshot courtesy of News12 Connecticut).
So are the trees along the walkway. A cemetery board member visited the 9/11 site in New York, gathered acorns, brought them to his home nursery and raised the trees.
It’s all the handiwork of Dean Powers — Oak Lawn’s longtime groundskeeper (and native Westporter).
Bronson Hawley called Powers “very, very dedicated (and) hardworking.” The cemetery board member told News12 Connecticut: “He worked here literally 7 days a week. He saw this site and he said, ‘boy this is great and I’d like to do something to memorialize the victims,'” says Hawley.
Rock and trees at Oak Lawn Cemetery. (Screen shot courtesy of News12 Connecticut)
Powers never saw the finished work. He died of cancer in June last year. He was 69.
“Dean started designing maybe 3 years ago. He literally worked on those designs until the day he died. It was just amazing,” says Hawley.
Powers prepped the site, cleared it, planted bushes and moved trees. He even stood in the pouring rain, to watch how water flowed there.
Powers gave another gift too: His estate is paying for the cost of the memorial.
Previously, he paid for the granite. He had selected it himself, from a Vermont quarry.
A dedication ceremony this week will feature Jed Glick. He’s the brother of one of the men who rushed the cockpit of Flight 93. They prevented the hijacked plane from crashing into the US Capitol.
“Powers” is a common name. But it’s special in Westport. Dean Powers’ grandfather is the namesake of Powers Court, the official address of the Westport Country Playhouse.
His mother Eunice taught in Westport schools for many years, and played piano at the Unitarian Church.
His family did not seek fame or fortune. Instead they found satisfaction in doing their absolute best, all the time. They worked hard, and took no shortcuts.
Just like the heroes of Flight 93 — and so many others — now honored, thanks to Dean Powers, at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield.
Forget Easy-Bake ovens. (Do they still make them anymore?)
Among the fall class offerings at Wakeman Town Farm: a new cooking class for youngsters in kindergarten through grade 3.
“Pint-Sized Cooking: Everything Mini” teaches cooking, baking and “food experimentation, while creating meals in miniature. Young chefs will be put on a path to understanding the appeal of delicious food.”
Popular favorites for older kids — including Cooking Around the Globe and Young Chef’s Club — continue too.
Click here for more information, and registration.
Eager students in Wakeman Town Farm’s “Cooking Around the Globe” class.
Low-income residents can apply for Connecticut’s Energy Assistance Program through Westport’s Department of Human Services. Applications are available starting October 1, and run through April 30.
Individuals and families qualify for CEAP based on annual income and household size. Click on the state website for full details.
Households with previous CEAP applications on file will receive mailed application instructions in the coming weeks. New residents can contact Human Services for application information (203-341-1050) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duncan Hurley — father of 3 children, and a longtime Westport Soccer Association volunteer coach — died this week.
A grateful parent remembers seeing him on many Saturday mornings, with a toddler on his hip coaching older players.
“They were the most jovial and effervescent family, even in the midst of health struggles they dealt with privately,” she says. “I reflect on this passage from The Little Prince in his honor: ‘In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And when your sorrow is comforted 9time soothes all sorrows), you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. I shall not leave you.'”
She adds: “He was a king, raising princes and a princess in the best form. He was a gem, to any and all who had the pleasure of crossing his path.”
Every September 11 — and the other 364 days of the year too — countless people mourn loved ones lost on that tragic day.
Others mourn loved ones they never knew.
Gabi Jacobs Dick is a 2020 Staples High School graduate, and sophomore at Purchase College. His father, Ariel Jacobs, was killed in the World Trade Center.
“All crews recovered was his briefcase,” People magazine reports. “Yet it was not all he left behind. Six days later, his widow Jenna Jacobs McPartland gave birth to their son Gabriel.
People has followed Gabi, and others — perhaps 100 — who never knew their parents, since then. Now they’re part of a documentary, “Rebuilding Hope: The Children of 9/11.” It’s streaming on Discovery+.
“I have no tangible memories of my dad, so there’s nothing concrete,” Gabi says, in the current People story. It includes him on the cover.
Gabi Dick, upper right in the group of the 4 “Children of 9/11.”
“I can’t grieve him the way my mother does. She can recall memories. For me, it’s not so much a missing feeling, as a longing. I have questions and ideas. But I don’t ask what-if questions. There’s no answer.”
Gabi recently saw a video of his father. He told People:
Gabi Dick (Photo courtesy of People Magazine)
“Something about being 19 and hearing my dad’s voice for the first time — that pushed an emotional button I didn’t know I had,” he says. “My whole life it was up to my imagination to turn him into a person. There was never anything to go off of except for photos. Seeing him on film with his friends and traveling to Buenos Aires, I was like this is a real person. He’s right in front of me.”
“It was sad,” he says, “but it did not make me sad.
“I think of how he would have wanted my life to be,” he says. “I honor him by being alive, being happy and living a great life
(Click here for the full People magazine story. Click here for People‘s 2016 story on Gabi Dick. Hat tip: Kerry Long)
The anniversary of 9/11 always takes me back to when I lived in downtown New York, on 14th Street and Avenue A with my husband Dave and our 6-month old baby Sam.
Early that morning, a friend called and said, “you better put on the TV – now.” We watched in horror and disbelief the footage of the first plane hitting.
Sam Gusick with his young parents, Dave and Robin.
We had plans to take Sam to his first baby music class, and wondered whether to go or not. Since we presumed the plane crash to be a terrible accident, we put Sam in his stroller and walked outside.
On the way we saw people huddling around a Radio Shack with multiple TV sets in the windows, all showing the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. We considered heading home, but figured we might as well go to the class as a distraction.
Ten minutes in, the teacher stopped playing her guitar and said, “I’m sorry, but it just seems wrong to sing when the world is falling apart. I just heard that a second plane hit. This is not an accident — it’s a terrorist attack.”
As we rushed out and hurried home with Sam back in his stroller, we saw massive smoke rising up from further downtown. People watched TVs in windows all along Union Square. They stood silently in shock, watching both towers fall.
Back in our apartment, we put Sam in his “exersaucer” and watched TV — and watched and watched, in horror. We saw smoke from our apartment windows, and smelled the most toxic smell imaginable.
It was particularly surreal to see this innocent 6-month old baby staring at the TV, and wonder what kind of world he would grow up in. We videotaped that moment on our bulky camcorder, knowing one day we would want to show Sam.
Fast forward 18 years to September 11, 2018. Sam is a senior at Staples High School (we moved to Westport when he was 2). I told him a bit of our story of that somber day, mentioning I had a videotape somewhere. He said, “Wow, I’d really like to see that.”
I was glad he was way too young to remember that awful day. I tried to explain to him that when you go through something like 9/11, you forever see the world through a different lens.
Sam headed off to the University of Vermont the following fall. My first baby quickly found “his people” and his “happy place” in Burlington. He came home for spring break in March. The pandemic hit, and his time in Vermont came to a screeching halt. Sam said, “My generation really has not lived through anything major like this… well, except September 11th. But I have no memory of that.”
Sam Gusick (Photo/Kerry Long)
Sam’s last 2 months of school were at home with no friends, no campus, no Burlington. He was a good sport. He was happy to have Zoom calls, and movie nights with his college buddies. There were silver linings: family dinners that never fit into his busy Staples Players and Orphenians schedule, and decluttering and simplifying our home.
During one of those long pandemic days in March, sorting through mountains of old papers while watching “Tiger King” with Sam, I felt a small item mixed in with the papers: a videotape labeled “Sam — September 11th.” It was a pandemic miracle!
However, the miracle was trapped in what seemed like caveman technology. Plus every business was shutting down. I left that tape on my night table, though. It took until today — September 11, 2020 — for me to research how to transfer that camcorder video to a watchable format.
And so, my 9/11 “gift” to Sam (who is back at UVM now) is this video, along with a message: Life can change in an instant.
It did on 9/11/01, and it did this past March. Keep being the resilient, positive man you have grown to be. Keep smiling like you did in that exersaucer on that very, very sad day.
Even if it’s under your mask. Click below for the 9/11 video.
From time to time, “06880” has noted Hillary O’Neill. The Staples High School graduate — and daughter of Coleytown Middle School social studies teacher Glenn O’Neill — was born on September 11, 2001.
She and a number of other young people have embraced their now-infamous birthday, dedicating themselves to service on a day that is difficult to celebrate.
Yesterday, Politico ran a story headlined: “The Children of 9/11 Are About to Vote.” The piece explored what “the youngest cohort of American voters thinks about politics, fear and the potential of the country they’ve grown up in.”
Hillary — now an EMT and student — was one of the “9/11 babies” interviewed. Among her thoughts:
From what I understand, there’s a certain aspect of fear now that didn’t necessarily exist before. It’s weird when I talk to my parents and they say, “This is not what it was always like.
The country has done a very poor job of handling the pandemic. It’s exposed a lot of the disorganization and divisions in our country and in our government. The fact that we are so divided has prevented us from actually being able to move forward with anything. It’s just frustrating when you hear experts on the topic who have been preparing their whole lives for an event like this, and they’re not being listened to.
When I was younger, I always thought that in America there was equality—that everyone had rights and everyone had freedoms. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized although that’s the ideal, that’s not the truth.
As a young woman, the way that (President Trump) talks about women is very disheartening to me and a lot of my friends. To know that that’s the person who is supposed to represent your country is a very frustrating feeling. You would think that everyone looked down upon that. The fact that not everyone does is a very frustrating feeling.
I hope that my generation can bring back a sense of community to the country. That is really something that will allow us to accomplish more things and move forward as a country. Rather than just accepting something the way that it is—because that’s the way it’s always been or accepting certain institutions—people my age have grown up learning to challenge those. If you don’t agree with something, challenge it.
Click here for the full Politico story, with more comments by Hillary and others. (Hat tip: Kerry Foley)
The cost of many things goes up. The price of gas keeps dropping.
As Chip Stephens put out his state representative campaign signs yesterday, he noticed at least 3 gas stations charging less than $2 a gallon.
Now, if we only had someplace to go, other than around in circles …
And finally … Ronald Khalis Bell — a founder of Kool & the Gang — died Wednesday. He was 68. Let’s celebrate the group’s monster hit, which he wrote:
On September 11, 2001, Westport native and current RTM member Andrew Colabella was in 7th grade at Bedford Middle School. He remembers:
I was sitting in Mr. Summ’s English class. We were called to the auditorium. Another fire drill? Motivational speaker? A boring play? Seemed too soon in the beginning of the year to be doing this.
Mrs. Wormser spoke with Ms. Reneri, standing with Mr. Delgado, about 2 planes hitting the World Trade Center. They had no other information to give.
Why would they call us to the auditorium about that? Planes crash every year. I started thinking, what if there is more to this? My friends said I had no idea what I was talking about.
Terrorism wasn’t new to me. My cousin John DiGiovanni was killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
We headed to lunch at 10:32. Parents were coming to the school picking up their kids. Some cried hysterically as they left the guidance office. Even teachers tried to hide their tears.
I went into the hall to hit the power button on the TV. There it was: 2 smoldering towers. People jumping from the high floors. Maybe they’ll land safely. Maybe they’re bringing helicopters with water to put it out, or throw rope to get them out.
It was serious. It was real.
The iconic 9/11 photo was taken by Westport’s Spencer Platt. He lived near the Twin Towers on that awful morning.
I called home. Dad was safe.
A girl walked out of guidance, crying with 2 friends. I never forgot that memory.
Later I learned about Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. I stood with my mom at Burying Hill Beach, watching smoke pour out like blood from a bad cut.
We had been cut. Nearly 3,000 people died, including 343 firefighters, 71 police officers, and EMTs and military personnel. That’s not counting the countless number of people who became sick and died long after the attacks.
Sherwood Island State Park, my backyard, holds the memory of 161 names — all Connecticut residents who died on 9/11. On a clear day, you can see the Manhattan skyline from the site.
I never forgot. If you’re reading this, you never forgot where you were or what you were doing that day.
As we grow older, more and more people born after 2001 have no memory of it. I’ve spoken with youth, even people my age, who never heard of the 1993 attacks, Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, the Oklahoma City bombing, even World War I.
Educating future generations is imperative. The history of how we got to where we are today, and what we endured as a nation, is vital. We can never forget those who died for no reason. We can never let our guard down.
Our world changed. The unthinkable happened. We were brought to our knees. But we got right back up, and struck back.
Today I have been selected to read 21 names from the podium of Ground Zero. It is an honor to read names of men and women. I never knew or met nearly all of them, but they are known to and loved by others: a parent, child, grandchild, cousin, spouse, but overall, a soul. These are the 21 names:
Manuel D. Mojica Jr
Manuel De Jesus Molina
Justin John Molisani Jr
Kristen Leigh Montanaro
Michael G. Montesi
Antonio De Jesus Montoya Valdes
Thomas Carlo Moody
Krishna V. Moorthy
Paula E. Morales
Gerard P. Moran Jr.
John Michael Moran
Lyndsey Stapleton Morehouse
Steven P. Morello
Yvette Nicole Moreno
Richard J. Morgan
Leonel Geronimo Morocho Morocho
And my cousin, John Di Giovanni
“No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory Of Time” is affixed to the Ground Zero wall. Each square is a different color, representing each different, unique person who died that day.
Adam J. Lewis grew up poor, in the Bronx. But he seized the educational opportunities he was given — scholarships to Dalton, then Hamilton College — and made a great, successful and fulfilling life for himself.
Then, on September 11, 2001 he was killed at his World Trade Center desk.
In his memory, the people who loved Adam — his wife and many friends — built a superbly fitting tribute.
Adam J. Lewis
Patty Lewis and Westporter Julie Mombello — friends from their days working together at Greens Farms Academy — knew the importance of pre-school education.
In Westport, pre-school — where children explore the world using all their senses, and learn letters, numbers, scientific observation, music, art, language, problem-solving, cooperation, coordination and many other skills — is a given. That’s far less true in Bridgeport, where the cost of preschool can be daunting.
Patty and Julie vowed to do what they could to give little children just a few miles from Westport the same advantages their own kids had.
The Adam J. Lewis Pre-School was born. And — despite daunting obstacles including fundraising, site selection and city bureaucracy — it has thrived since opening in 2013.
From its start — with just 12 children — it has grown steadily. This year there are 70 students, in pre-K3, pre-K4, kindergarten and 1st grade.
Last year the school relocated to a downtown Bridgeport campus. Its new name is the Adam J. Lewis Academy. They’ll add one grade each year. Ultimately they’ll serve 150 students, as a pre-K through grade 5 independent school.
The goal is to provide children from every background with an intellectually, socially and personally transformative educational experience. Students will leave empowered, and ready to make a difference in the world.
Westporters continue to play a key role in the Adam J. Lewis Academy. Lee Bollert is a longtime board member; 2nd Selectman Jen Tooker joined 4 years ago. Mombello remains a driving force.
Saba Pina — an original teacher 7 years ago — is still there. A new 1st grade instructor came from the Greens Farms Academy internship program.
Many other Westporters help too, volunteering their time and donating funds. (Fully 100% of school families receive need-based financial assistance.)
9/11 was one of the darkest days in American history. Out of those ashes though, a wonderful story of hope and dreams continues to rise.
(For more information on the Adam J. Lewis Academy — and to help — click here.)
An early class of very happy Adam J. Lewis preschoolers.
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