Atlantic City—The Atlantic City Fire Department suspended a 30 x 50-foot American Flag above the field at Jackson Avenue and the Boardwalk Monday morning near the Saracini-O’neil 9/11 Memorial.
Military and first responder units filled the area at 10 am. to commemorate the 22ndanniversary one of the most devasting attacks on American soil in United States history.
“It’s important that we never forget what happened on 9/11,” said Mayor Marty Small Sr. “We are the most resilient country in the world.”
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan crumbled after being hit by Boeing 767s flown by hijackers. Another plane flattened one of the five sides of the Pentagon in Washington, DC. A fourth plane, some authorities believed was headed for the Capitol, the presidential retreat at Camp David or other targets in Washington, went down in Shanksville, PA.
Killed on that solemn day as the world watched in awe were four people from the area; two Atlantic City natives, one Brigantine woman and another man, whose parents lived in the resort, according to the website ac911memorial.com.
Victor J. Saracini, who graduated from Atlantic City High School, was the Captain and pilot of United Airlines Flight 175 that was flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.
John P. O’neil, who attended grade school here and attended Holy Spirit High School, was a retired FBI director of Anti-terrorism and director of security at the World Trade Center.
Patricia Cody, of Brigantine, who was a managing director at Marsh & McLennan insurers, was at a meeting at the World Trade Center.
Andrew Alameno, who was a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, worked at the World Trade Center. Alameno graduated from Wildwood Catholic High School. His parents lived on Texas Avenue and were members of St. Michael’s parish.
When the final numbers were tallied, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day. Robert Pantalena and Pam Paparone, co-directors of the memorial event, said their goal is to make sure people always remember.
“I think the importance is to honor the people who lost their lives that day and also the military for responding to terrorist acts,” said Paparone. “For some of the police recruits, they may not have been alive that day.”
Pantalena said he met Saracini while exercising on the Boardwalk just two weeks before the attacks.
“I was a New Jersey state parole officer, and I ran on Boardwalk,” Pantalena explained. “I met Victor Saraicini. He’s born, raised, and educated in Atlantic City.”
The ceremony included the presentation of colors, various speakers and the Atlantic City Police Department and Atlantic City Fire Department honor guards.
The Last Salute to the fallen included three cannon valleys fired by Atlantic City Police Chief James Sarkos, Atlantic City Fire Chief Scott Evans and another from the United States Coast Guard followed by Taps played on a bugle.
"It's a very somber day," said Sarkos. "I hope everyone can remember the unity that our country had after that attack and I hope we can have more unity."
An American flag was unfolded, then refolded before flag presentations were made.
Isaac "Ike" Rucker received one of the flags.
Rucker wore his 72-year-old Marine Corps uniform to the ceremony.
"It still fits," said Rucker. "I weigh probably about the same as I was when I enlisted."
Rucker got out of the service in 1951. During his time, he served on the Marine Corps silent drill team and performed ceremonial duty at Arlington National Cemetery. Rucker said he was surprised to be included.
"I wasn't expecting to get the flag," Rucker said.
Later those assembled went across the Boardwalk to a special sand sculpture to honor the slain.
Tanya Dandridge, of Atlantic City, said she came to the memorial out of respect for those who lost their lives. Her cousin worked in the World Trade Center but wasn’t there at the time.
“I had a dream about a man in a wheelchair trying to get down downstairs before it happened and I wrote it down,” said Dandridge. “I used to go to the World Trade Center a lot and I had been there a couple days earlier. I never forgot that day.”
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