In a somber
ceremony, MCCC staff, students and members of the community gathered
on Sept. 11 at the college's Memorial Garden to pay tribute to those
who lost their lives and to those who answered the call to help.
Master of Ceremonies and MCCC Board Chair Skip Cimino called the
day "a celebration of life and a day of remembrance for those
who perished." He recognized the police recruits currently
in training at the Mercer County Police Academy on the MCCC campus,
who attended the ceremony in blue uniforms. Reverend William E.
Coleman Jr., vice chair of the Board of Trustees, led the invocation
and MCCC Music student Kelly Carvin sang a stirring rendition of
"God Bless America."
Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes noted that seven years have
gone by since the attacks. "This may seem like a long time,
but for the many county residents who lost friends and loved ones,
the pain of traumatic loss never fades completely. We honor them
by showing courage and foresight
by rising above anger and
rejecting the notion that violence alone can solve our problems."
He stressed the importance of continuing to work together as a community
and a country to address problems through cooperation and diplomacy.
MCCC President Patricia Donohue used the Sept. 11th ceremony to
help remind us of our core shared values. She also cited the college's
role in molding the first responders. "We are proud to partner
with the county in training the first responders, both police and
firefighters, who protect us. We recognize the challenges of their
mission," she said.
Fire Academy Director Scott Loh introduced the program's special
guest, Chris Smith, a Trenton firefighter and Fire Academy instructor
who was called to Ground Zero just hours after the attacks and spent
the next 12 days sifting through the rubble. He recalled his trip
up the New Jersey Turnpike as part of a caravan of buses. "We
were the only ones on the road that day. We could see the smoke
billowing. As we got off the bus, some people were cheering, others
were crying." He recalled a scene of utter devastation. "There
was gray dust everywhere and large piles of smoking rubble. It looked
like a disaster movie." He and his fellow first responders
worked around the clock in 12-hour shifts, painstakingly searching
for victims in the buildings' debris and in empty spaces below the
street. In an assembly line formation, they moved five-gallon buckets
filled with rubble to screening areas. "I'll never forget September
11th and the work I did to bring closure to some of the families,"
the wreath, from left, MCCC President Patricia Donohue, Fire Academy
Director Scott Loh, Firefighter Chris Smith and MCCC Board Chair