‘Let Us Never Forget’

September 16, 2016

 

by Laurie Jasper

As the sun set in the evening sky, over 200 people gathered on Sunday, Sept. 11, at Hudson’s Benson Park 9/11 Memorial to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on our nation.  The 6:30 p.m. observance began with an invocation read by Fire Lieutenant Michelle Rudolph and the singing of the National Anthem by Firefighter Mike Armand.  Fire Chief Robert Buxton and Police Chief Jason Lavoie placed a wreath at the Memorial.  The honor guard from Hudson American Legion Post 48 fired a 21-gun salute, which was followed by Police Officer Allison Cummings’ on the trumpet sounding “Taps.”

The 9/11 Memorial at Benson Park was dedicated on the 10th anniversary in 2011, and each year the community gathers there to honor those who lost their lives on that fateful day.  Among the 2,976 who died was Hudson resident David Kovalcin.  In addition, the town pays tribute to the men and women in uniform who protect and defend America’s freedom.  Hudson’s Highway Department worked tirelessly in the days prior to the ceremony to ensure the Memorial was as beautiful as dedication day, despite southern New Hampshire’s severe drought conditions.  Indeed, the granite monuments’ walking path denoting the timeline of events that day led to fresh, green grass which honors those who died in a field in Shanksville, Pa.  The border is in the shape of the Pentagon.  At the center of the Memorial is a 23-foot steel beam from the World Trade Center’s north tower, which was paired with a white beam to depict both towers.

Among those in the crowd were Susan and Ron Rioux from Nashua, visiting the 9/11 Memorial for the first time.  They came to honor the memory of Madeline Amy Sweeney, an American Airlines flight attendant who was on board Flight 11.  An emotional Susan shared that Amy, as they called her, grew up with their sons and called them Aunt Susan and Uncle Ron.  It is documented that Amy, despite the hostile takeover of the airplane, calmly shared crucial information via phone which included the seat numbers of four of the five hijackers.  Amy was just 35 years old, and left a husband and two children in Massachusetts.  Since 2002, Massachusetts awards the annual Madeline Amy Sweeney Award for Civilian Bravery.  “I really didn’t even know if I could touch the tower or get next to it, but it was so important to me to bring Amy’s picture and red roses to leave here.  She belongs to that tower and to touch that tower …,” Susan shared before having to pause to collect herself.  “You have no idea how important it was for me today to have the picture of Amy and the roses touch that beam,” Susan said.

For Spike Cutolo, this was not her first visit to Hudson’s 9/11 Memorial, but it was among her most poignant.  Cutolo was a New York Police Department detective when the attacks occurred.  Due to her work in the aftermath at the World Trade Center Twin Towers, she suffered medical complications and was forced to retire in 2006.  She chose to retire to New Hampshire, and attended the very first service at Benson Park 9/11 Memorial in 2011.  In 2013, Cutolo was the guest speaker at the annual service.  This year, despite the obvious progression of her illness and the need for oxygen, Cutolo sat in a place of honor in her immaculate dress blues and made her pilgrimage to touch the steel beam with the assistance of Hudson Fire Department members.

This year’s guest speaker was David Paquin, the chairman of the 9/11 Memorial committee in Dracut, Mass.  Dracut, too, received a beam from the World Trade Center, which stands 7-feet tall and is located at Dracut Fire Station 2 on Jones Avenue.  It is across from the Ogonowski family farm.  Captain John Ogonowski was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center.  “John was not scheduled to drive that day,” said Paquin.  Ogonowski liked his work, which usually allowed him four days off to work on his beloved hay farm.  “John is considered the first person to die on 9/11 as he was surely overtaken and murdered by the terrorists,” Paquin continued.  When Paquin learned that pieces of steel from the twin tower could be obtained for memorials, he formed Dracut’s committee and set to work designing a fitting tribute.  The beam is considered forensic evidence, so a court order was necessary to release the beam.  In April, 2011, steel artifact numbered HO1151A was transported into Dracut with a procession from every school.  The steel is mounted to a pedestal that is positioned at an angle 9 degrees and 11 minutes, which creates a straight line from the monument to the World Trade Center site.  The diameter of the curbing is 9 feet 11 inches.  The code for the steel beam from its manufacturer is E911-111.  Dracut’s Memorial was also dedicated in 2011.  “This 9/11 monument is certainly an example of historic preservation at its best,” said Paquin.  “Bring your children and grandchildren.  Tell them about the events of 9/11 and tell them the residents of Dracut will never forget,” Paquin concluded.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Ted Luszey thanked Mr. Paquin, and said, “When you come to visit Benson Park and this Memorial, think about all the lives on that day and all the lives we have lost since in the fight against terrorism.  Let us never forget.”