ALLENDALE, N.J. — Some 500 people turned out Sunday for Allendale’s 15th Annual Candlelight Ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial in Crestwood Park.
“We take the ceremony very seriously,” said Councilwoman Amy Wilczynski, organizer.
This year’s gathering featured a spellbinding talk by Brian Clark of Mahwah, one of four survivors above the point of impact in the South Tower.
Also, the traditional reading of historic timelines of 9/11 events was done by sophomores at Northern Highlands Regional High School.
All those reading were born in 2001, Wilczynski pointed out.
They did so while standing on a platform around a steel artifact from the 9/11 site.
Bagpipers from Clan Na Vale escorted visibly emotional members of the Allendale Fire Department, Allendale Police Department, Allendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and Allendale Community Emergency Response Team to the memorial.
All stood at attention for the duration of the ceremony, which began with a blessing from the Rev. Charles Pinyan, pastor of Guardian Angel Roman Catholic Church.
Clark captivated everyone with his account of what happened to him.
He was on the 84th floor of the South Tower when the second hijacked airplane slammed into the building six floors below him.
He’d come out of his office, a flashlight in his pocket, and walked to the west side trading floor where he met a coworker. As the two started to speak at 9:03 a.m., they heard a boom, boom.
“Our building was rocked,” Clark recounted. “The second plane hit the south tower at about the 78th floor. But, as it went in, the right wingtip was up, so the right wingtip went right through the east side of our trading floor. It killed many people on the 78th floor where they were changing elevators from local to express to get to the basement.”
He felt the whole building slowly sway six to eight feet toward the Hudson River.
“I know that sounds extraordinary but I’m telling you that’s what I sensed,” Clark said. “It stopped and, for five seconds, it swayed back to vertical as all the steel, I guess, went back into square.”
At that moment, he felt he would be fine. And he was.
But not before a harrowing descent, stopping at the 81st floor to rescue a stranger trapped in a nine-foot pit and calling for help: Stanley Praimnath.
The two got to the bottom floor and then ran like mad, hoping not to get hit by falling debris. They went for blocks before arriving at a deli, then Trinity Church, which served as a kind of seawall as it deflected the white dust that was raining down everywhere.
Clark went on to be president of the Euro Brokers Relief Fund, a public charity that raised millions of dollars to support the families of his company’s 61 victims.
His parting thought for those assembled was this: live in the present.
“Do not burden yourself trying to answer unanswerable questions,” Clark said. “Also know that you can’t plan the future with any certainty. You can’t predict the things in your own life. Don’t worry about it.”
Just live today, he said.
“That’s where I live,” he said. “Every day is a great day. Some are just greater than others.”
Joe Hart of Allendale played “Taps” near the end of the ceremony.
One Allendale resident perished on 9/11 — Donald Arthur Delapenha. He was 37.