Barbara Martella, of Ventnor, was part of a somber crowd who stopped on the Atlantic City Boardwalk Wednesday to pay tribute at the Sept. 11 memorial for two Atlantic City natives who died during the 2001 attacks.
Having a local tribute for Victor J. Saracini and John P. O'Neill, who were among the thousands who lost their lives 12 years ago at the World Trade Center in New York, is really special, Martella said, adding she has attended the Boardwalk ceremony every year.
"Everyone remembers where they were that day," Martella said.
"It was what Pearl Harbor was to our parents and grandparents," said Atlantic City mayoral candidate Don Guardian, who was a keynote speaker at Wednesday’s event.
A 5-foot-tall memorial honoring Saracini and O'Neill is located on the Boardwalk at Jackson Avenue.
Saracini was the captain of United Airlines Flight 175, a Boston-to-Los Angeles flight that was hijacked and flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. When the attacks occurred, O'Neill had recently begun working as the head of security for the office complex, having just left a career with the FBI.
O’Neill rescued one person before re-entering the World Trade Center building, never to come out, said Guardian, who added that the local tribute is not a memorial to the people who died, but a memorial to those law enforcement and emergency response officials who continue to serve.
Atlantic City resident Therese Cooke attended the ceremony with her toddler daughter and recalls being in college during the attacks.
Cooke was a resident of Ocean City at the time and attended Richard Stockton College. She remembers coming home after rowing practice that morning and watching the news.
“I hope that this is something that is always going to be remembered,” Cooke said. Though she is rearing a child in a post-9/11 world, she doesn’t think her daughter will ever fully understand how it affected the nation. “I don’t know if it will have an impact on her as much.
Boardwalk Ambassadors passed out flags and flowers to the crowd to place on the memorial at the end of the ceremony, which was one of many held throughout the region and nation.
In Cape May Court House, officials dedicated a new memorial ouside the Cape May County complex. The memorial includes three concrete blocks from the Pentagon dating from the 2011 attacks as well as a large rock and soil from the Flight 93 memorial site in Shanksville, Pa.
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