WEST WINDSOR – Just like those who watched the news unfold after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, every American vividly remembers where they were on Sept. 11, 2001. For Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo J. Onofri, he was at a conference in Atlantic City when Earth and time came to a standstill.
“There was a sense of shock and disbelief,” Onofri said. “Driving back to Trenton was an experience I will never forget. It was absolutely eerie. There were no cars on the road.”
Onofri, keynote speaker at the 18th Annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at Mercer County Community College (MCCC), recounted in vivid detail his memories of that day, and how all of our lives changed: lives were lost, families torn apart, and many of the heroic first responders, who rushed into the face of danger with little concern for their own safety, continue to suffer from health problems to this day.
“Today we say we remember you, we care about you, and you are not forgotten,” Onofri said.
In his opening remarks, MCCC Board of Trustees Chair Mark Matzen stressed the importance of memorializing the events of that fateful day, and those to whom we owe a tremendous debt – particularly with a milestone anniversary just two years away. Specifically, he noted the recent passage of the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act by Congress, which provides lifetime health benefits for first responders who still suffer consequences from their heroic acts.
“I hope that as the 20-year anniversary of this tragic event nears, we as a country will again bond together as we honor these heroes, and recommit to the ideals that have made this nation a beacon to the world,” Matzen said.
In his address to the assembled, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes said that he, too, has vivid memories of Sept. 11, 2001, but with the passage of time, a generation is coming of age that has no such memories. As such, he said, it is important to continue with an annual day of remembrance – and to never forget.
“It was a fateful day and a day that I shall always remember, a day that many of you will always remember clearly,” Hughes said. “But for the next generation, it’s becoming just a memory, a lesson in the history books. We have to keep the spirit alive, to make sure people don’t forget what our country sacrificed on that day.”