By Jennifer L. Warren
POUGHKEEPSIE – Reverend Dr. Edward L. Hunt remembers the moment as if it was yesterday; it took place 21 years ago and is forever engraved in his heart.
It was just over 24 hours after a tragic, life-altering day that will forever be remembered: September 11, 2001. Some of our country’s most sacred and symbolic landmarks had been destroyed; while thousands of innocent people had their lives taken, all at the hands of incomprehensible terrorism. The entire nation was shaken, frozen, confused and lost, in a state of emotional upheaval. Dr. Hunt was driving his car up Route 9, and a police officer who recognized him, pulled him over, asking to have a prayer. Soon after, a State Trooper, who knew neither of the praying men, requested to join in on the private, healing act.
“That moment meant everything to me, recalled a visibly, emotionally touched Hunt as he addressed guests last Friday morning. “It really showed me the necessity of prayer in times of trouble; we all need to be comforted.”
And still, over 20 years later that need for consolation, understanding, as well as something that provides a spark of hope after something so intensely sad and senseless remains. For the 20th year, all of that ongoing healing was provided outside, on the steps of the Family Court Center at 50 Market Street in the City of Poughkeepsie. Here, local politicians, other dignitaries and anyone at all who felt a need for that precious comfort, understanding, and just plain connection, joined together to pay tribute to that day 21 years ago that stopped time, made us rethink who we were, redefined the fabric of our personal and national security and forever left an imprint of the repercussions of inexplicable evil on us.
“There are a lot of events going on in our lives right now, a lot of noise and clutter happening,” Dutchess County Executive, Marcus Molinaro, relayed to those in attendance.
“All of that noise can be overwhelming at times and block out the silence we need to hear, especially with those who continue to struggle from that day 21 years later.”
Molinaro went on to draw the contrasting image of quietude that blanketed this nation the day after the 9-11 attacks with that incessant flood of information and busyness that now consumes us. It was a time people could hear the heartbeat of America, as they mourned deeply, but at the same time realized America will never be defined by episodes of perceived surrender or defeat.
“Moments after that day, there was brilliance in this nation on full display, and this is what we need to remember,” urged Molinaro. “We are all Americans.”
That same duality of pain and loss, alongside hope and unity, was touched upon by the event’s organizer, Dutchess County Family Court Judge, Tracy C. MacKenzie. Overseeing the ceremony for the second year, MacKenzie, like so many, had a very personal connection to that tragic day.
“September 11 is a day of loss that we need to remember,” said MacKenzie. “My Uncle, who was a NYPD Officer, died in December, 2021, after a slow, painful battle from the aftermath of September 11; it shows how this tragedy is ongoing; yet, at the same time, today serves as a wonderful day of reflection, a time to take a moment to really see what unites us rather than divides us.”
That convergence of likeness was on full display during the Lowering of the Flag/Tap Playing, Moment of Silence as well as emotionally charged singing segments provides by Desiree S. King-CASA/MHA Dutchess County, who delivered powerful renditions of both the “Star Spangled Banner” as well as “God Bless America.” During each patriotic number, guests could be seen tightly holding their hand on their hearts, police officers standing tall and proud, saluting along with a general sense of togetherness, shared pain, ongoing healing, and an undeniable desire for a more empathetic way of being.
“As we think back about that time, it’s important to remember the people we lost and celebrate all of our military, EMS and even local citizens,” said King. “Those are the reasons I’m here today.”
For Keynote Speaker, Dutchess County Acting Sheriff, Kirk Imperati, who asked everyone present to reflect upon where they were on 9-11, the reasons will forever remain to remember that day, as not only does doing so pay tribute to precious lives lost, but the lessons it taught possess the fuel to make us a better people and society.
“Be Kind. Be compassionate. Respect each other. Support each other. Take care of each other,” said Imperati. “We must never forget, and always remember September 11.”