OCEAN COUNTY – While the coronavirus has made it difficult to have gatherings of a certain size, veterans are encouraging people to continue to remember the attacks on September 11, 2001 in their own way.
Gov. Phil Murphy has issued executive orders limiting the size of indoor and outdoor events. Some large celebrations, like the July 4th fireworks over the Toms River, had to be cancelled. But even more solemn events have been impacted.
John Dorrity, director of Ocean County’s Veteran Service Bureau, said ceremonies can still be held. It depends on the type of ceremony.
“It’s not going to be the type of events we had because of COVID,” he said. People have to maintain safety. Masks have to be worn, social distancing must be in place. No one wants to see a spike in cases – or a spike in deaths.
Dorrity said he had COVID-19 in the spring. He didn’t think that September 11 was being forgotten in the midst of the pandemic.
“It is really important that we observe this day,” he said. “We have to make sure it is not forgotten while we are dealing with this (virus).”
There is evidence that a vaccine is on its way to the public. If so, he expects that next year’s ceremonies will go on as usual. Next year will be the 20th anniversary.
Ocean County will hold a Day of Remembrance and wreath-laying ceremony. The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. on September 11 and will include a moment of silence to remember those lost.
“While life has moved forward since that tragic day, we would be remiss if we didn’t take time to remember the events of September 11, 2001,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who will serve as master of ceremonies. “So many of us stood frozen in time on that day, gathered around televisions and radios as we listened in horror that our great Country was under attack.”
Vicari will be joined by Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer in placing a wreath at the Sept. 11 Monument in the courtyard between 119 and 129 Hooper Avenues. A second wreath will be placed at the War on Terror Monument located just a few feet away.
The public is invited, but masks must be worn.
Ocean County has a high concentration of veterans. Many of them are seniors and many have pre-existing health conditions. So, having a large gathering in the time of a pandemic might be dangerous.
Bill Dondero, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9503 in Bayville said that they are doing a memorial service on that day for members only. It’s a smaller service, without the public.
“We show honor to the dead and to the military who are still fighting,” he said.
At Berkeley’s Pride Day, there is routinely a September 11 remembrance ceremony and this year was no different. It took place near the bandstand in Veterans Park where the town has a memorial. An I-beam from the Twin Towers is on display near stone markers and tall flagpoles. This is at an outside event where social distancing is possible.