The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
SEPT. 11, 2001
CONNECTICUT REFLECTS 20 YEARS AFTER THE TRAGIC ATTACKS
Ceremonies to ensure the next generation ‘never forgets’
MIDDLETOWN — Saturday marks 20 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and Middletown is holding two memorial ceremonies to ensure no one forgets the events of that day.
Newly appointed Middletown Fire Chief John “Jay” Woron said he expects the solemn occasion will be a little larger than usual.
On that day, Woron was in his fourth year as a Middletown firefighter, and had just finished up a threeday shift. He was standing in the communication center preparing to leave when word came through that the
World Trade Center had been hit.
A brief period of confusion ended when the second plane hit. “Then we knew,” Woron said. “Twenty years later, I still remember it like it was yesterday.”
He no longer thought about leaving. Instead, Woron and the rest of the crew began preparing for duty. “The department started seeing who was available to send down there,” he said.
Though no Middletown crews reached ground zero, they were ready to help if needed. Some of Woron’s friends in the New York City Fire Department were among the 343 firefighters who died, he said.
The downtown fire department, along with police, will host the annual remembrance ceremony at the Connecticut Trees of Honor at Veterans Memorial Park on Walnut Grove Road beginning at 8:30 a.m.
The police pipe band will lead a procession of police and fire crews to the site of the ceremony, which will be held in front of a portion of rail line that once ran underneath the World Trade Center and now serves as a monument for that day.
There will be a wreath laying, prayer, and words from Mayor Ben Florsheim and other town officials. A bell traditionally used to signify the death of a firefighter will be rung at 8:46 and 9:02 a.m. to mark the moments the planes hit the North and South towers.
Woron said that the memorial ceremonies being held in Middletown and beyond are not only to remember those that lost their lives, but are a way to ensure that the pain felt that day is never forgotten.
He emphasized that this includes the many first responders that worked to sift through the rubble left behind, because many of those people are now suffering health complications as a result of the work.
“We want to make sure we honor them as well,” Woron said.
Another ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the South Fire District 9/11 Memorial Garden at 445 Randolph Road. The monument features a steel beam from the North Tower and is maintained by fire department staff using donations from the community.
South District Fire Chief Jim Trzasky said that what began as a memorial for firefighters lost that day has grown into a place for people to come and reflect.
“It’s grown to become a monument for everyone,” Trzasky said.
On Saturday, the garden will serve as a centerpiece for a ceremony that will feature performances from the Mercy High School choir and Middletown High School marching band. A bagpiper will also perform as part of a color guard ceremony. Speakers will include Brett Eagleson, a Middletown resident whose father Bruce Eagleson was killed in the attack.
Trzasky was appointed chief just two months ago, after about five years with the department. Before that, he was a member of the Naugatuck Fire Department since 1991. He also worked part time at the Connecticut Fire Academy.
He was there training future firefighters on the morning of 9/11. Trzasky said he can’t help but think about those recruits and how their careers were changed by that day.
“Firefighters went from being first responders to the first line of defense against terrorists,” Trzasky said.
While the events are still fresh in Trzasky’s memory, he said he realizes that there is a generation now that does not feel the impact of that day in the same way.
“For those that weren’t old enough or weren’t around yet, they could never feel the immenseness,” Trzasky said.
He said that memorial ceremonies like the ones taking place Saturday are a way to make it so “they can have a sense of what we felt.”