“On that day 658 of my friends and coworkers were brutally murdered,” Ari Schonbrun said. “Four employees were on their way up to the upper floors, three of them were so severely burned that they spent months and months in the hospital undergoing surgeries and rehabilitations, and one of them walked out without a scratch, and you’re looking at that person.”
Schonbrun, the author of “Miracle & Fate on 78” spoke at the annual Village of Cedarhurst 9/11 memorial at Andrew J. Parise Cedarhurst Park on Sept. 10. He recounted his story of how being late for work that day saved his life, how he helped his badly burned co-worker climb down 78 stories in the north tower of the World Trade Center, and how her refusal to let him go back in to help saved him from the building’s collapse.
The tragedy of the attacks helped Schonbrun reprioritize the balance of work and family in his life. “I did learn a lot that day, my family is the most important thing to me … It was always daddy’s gotta work, that was the refrain, until that day...” he said, “[Now] daddy’s wherever his children need him to be, because my friends that is what is really important in life.”
The message of reflection was present throughout the ceremony. Rabbi Shay Schachter of Young Israel of Woodmere recalled some tragedies of the past year. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, white nationalists gathering in Charlottesville and countless deaths in the Middle East among them. “We’re made to feel almost paralyzed,” he said, “life seems so fickle, we seem so vulnerable and life seems so unpredictable.”
Schachter also thanked the military for their service and stressed the importance of standing together against hatred, terror and bigotry.
Cedarhurst Mayor Benjamin Weinstock led the reading of the 9/11 granite markers which line the walkway to the park’s memorial fountain and describe that day’s events. Trustees Ron Lanzilotta, Ari Brown, Myrna Zisman and Israel Wasser recited the messages, each of which were punctuated with a single toll of a bell.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) spoke mournfully. “It’s always a very difficult time of year and a very difficult day because it brings back memories of the worst day,” he said. However he urged the crowd to also remember Sept. 12, as a day Americans came together. Recalling scenes of onlookers cheering for first responders he said, “I think we were never finer.”
A moment of silence and a rendition of “Taps” was preceded by Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department Chief David Campbell reading the names of seven local residents who were killed that day.
The Lawrence High School acapella ensemble opened the ceremony with their rendition of the national anthem, and helped close it with a performance of “God Bless America.”
Several military veterans also led the LCFD around the memorial fountain with the American and LCFD flags. An emergency call caused most members to leave the ceremony before it ended. Sirens sounded as fire trucks raced down Cedarhurst Avenue as Weinstock ended the ceremony. “As we all know saving a life trumps everything,” he said, after being interrupted by the roar of a fire engine.