OSWEGO, NY – Probably the two most powerful words spoken during the Oswego Fire Department’s observance of the 10th anniversary were spoken by a children.
As members of the fire and police departments marched into the eastside fire station from East Park, he simply said, “Hi daddy,” as his father walked by.
That innocent greeting brought a lump to the throat and tear to the eye of more than one firefighter and police officer.
“When I heard that, all I could think of was the hundreds of children who can’t say that to their fathers today because they lost them in the attacks 10 years ago,” Oswego Police Chief Tory DeCaire said solemnly.
Around four dozen Oswego firefighters were joined by friends, family and members of the community for the remembrance.
“It is important that we gather here today, just as we have the past 10 years, to remember not only the 343 FDNY firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice but the other members of the uniformed service, police officers, EMS as well as many innocent civilians who lost their lives that day,” Chief Jeff McCrobie told the crowd gathered in front of the eastside fire station on Sunday morning.
Oswego Fire Department Chaplain Sebastian Foti called the attacks “the most defining event of our lifetimes.”
Before 911, there was a sense of invincibility in America; after 911, vulnerability became more prevalent, he said.
“The total of deaths that day is estimated at close to 3,000 people,” he said. “Since that day, much has changed. Americans are more careful and cautious in many areas. As a nation, we’ve become keenly aware of the evil that lurks in the hearts of all men – we’ve all become aware of the global impact of that day.”
It is certain that we, as a nation, will never be the same again, he pointed out. “You know who died that day?” he continued. “Future doctors, future governors, future leaders; people who may have impacted out land in a very powerful way.”
The attack was to put fear in the heart of every American, Foti noted.
“Instead, rising from the ashes of devastation came America’s finest hour. Men and women, separated by race, color and creed united as one brotherhood under God to save lives and restore faith to a wounded nation,” he said.
Three hundred and forty-three firemen died that day because they chose to go into an area everyone else was running out of, the chaplain said. “Their lives were not taken – they were given. It is a special person that can give their lives in the line of duty,” he continued.
The brotherhood of firefighters remains intact, Foti proclaimed.
“The reason we stand here this morning is because of the realization of the realization that we are a part of something much, much bigger. When the terrorists attacked 10 years ago, they wanted to destroy our spirit, our hope and our brotherhood,” he said. “All they destroyed were buildings.”
First Assistant Chief Donald T. Dowd II rang the fire bell in honor of the last call of the fallen FDNY firefighters. That was followed by a moment of silence.
“I was going over to my dad’s house. I came into the house and he said, ‘I just had the TV on and there was a plane crash in New York City.’ As I walked over to the TV, we saw the second building go. It was just unbelievable,” said former OFD firemen Dick Drosse, recalling where he was that fateful morning.
Chief DeCaire remembers being at a training seminar.
“We caught it on the news, watched for a few minutes and then went back to work. Within a matter of minutes, cell phones started ringing, pagers started going off and people started picking up their stuff and going to wherever they had to go. We knew then that it wasn’t an accident, something terrible was happening,” he said.
Sunday’s was small compared to the gathering just days after the attack in 2001.
Hundreds of people crammed into the Civic Plaza and spilled out over West First and Second streets that Thursday evening. They came to pay their respects to the victims of the terrorists’ attacks and to get and give support to each other.
Rev. William King delivered the invocation.
“We’re here to remember those who have fallen in the dust of unanticipated hatred,” he said. “Most importantly, we’re here to remember what we are most quick to forget. That our security and safety as Americans rests not in fancy weaponry or in wealth or in money but in seeking after the face of God.”
Former Oswego Fire Department Lt. Mike Cutro was in New York (for training) during the attack and assisted in the rescue efforts almost immediately after the towers collapsed.
“(The debris) was as high as Simeon Dewitt,” he said when he returned, referring to the senior high-rise on the east side of Oswego. “It was like being in a war zone. For all we knew, maybe we were at war. We could hear the F-16s going overhead, but we couldn’t see them. We really didn’t know what state America was in.”
Asked if he thought he’d ever see anything like the World Trade Center attack, Cutro just shook his head and replied, “And I hope to God I never do again.”