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Thursday, September 08, 2016

15 Years Later, 9/11 Still Evokes Pain

By James Lomuscio

She’s been coming every year since she was 2, holding a white rose as she walks across the expansive field to the 9/11 memorial at Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park.

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Emma Hunt, 16, of Essex, tonight places flowers on her father’s name on the 9/11 memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com

Once there, she wells up, brushing her hands against her eyes and her long red hair, as she places the rose on the name of her father engraved in the stone of the waterfront monument.

Emma Hunt, 16, of Essex, was only 15 months old when her father William Christopher Hunt died in the World Trade Center attacks.

But each anniversary as she attends the state-sponsored Sept. 11 memorial ceremony,  there seems to be an inexplicable bond with her father, as if she had known him her whole life. She places the rose, clings to her mother, and cries.

(Photos of Emma at the memorial over the years have been among the most poignant from the ceremonies—see WestportNow Sept. 10, 2012 and Sept. 10, 2013)

Today, as people gathered three days early to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on the United States, ones that claimed 161 Connecticut lives alone, the depth of emotion among many at the ceremony was no different.

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It was an emotional ceremony for many attending tonight’s event. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

A number of the more than 100 family and friends who gathered for the memorial in the Sherwood Island Pavilion said the emotional upheaval made it feel as if it had just happened yesterday.

Reactions to the hymns sung by the U.S. Coast Guard Cadet Glee Club and the Marine Corps rendition of taps made it appear as if no years had passed.

Cathy Curioli of Norwalk lost her husband Paul Curioli at Ground Zero. His memorial marker is near Hunt’s. In addition to a white rose, the widow placed a small pile of pennies.

“I always put pennies there,” she said as she choked back tears. “I’ve been doing it since day one, you know, pennies from heaven.

“And when I find one, I know he’s sending it back to me. It’s how we communicate. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, but I know I’ll be with him some day.”

In his speech to the families, as well as to the state and local officials and clergy gathered in the pavilion, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said 9/11 was not only a time to remember those who were lost, “but to remember what you (the families) have been through.”

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy: “All of us have been impacted by your loss.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“All of us have been impacted by your loss,” Malloy said. “And all of us have been impacted by your strength.

“We are committed to you, and we join you year after year,” he added.

He also said that Americans have to stand up to terror around the world, not only focus on our own country. At the same, he stressed, the country should not lose sight of its values.

“We will not allow the terrorists 15 years ago, today or tomorrow to change who we are,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman , as she has in past years, pointed out that she wears a 9/11 pin every day.

“People say, ‘Nancy, it’s been 15 years. Why do you still wear it?’ And I say, ‘I wear it every day because my life changed that day.’”

She added that Sept. 11, 2001 marked her 50th wedding anniversary, and that ever since she and her husband choose another day that month to celebrate.

Before the ceremony started, Sari Weatherwax of Wilton, a former United Airlines flight attendant and now a docent at the National 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City, spoke about the enormous personal toll the terrorist attacks took on her.

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The ceremony ended with the traditional playing of taps. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

She lost a cousin who worked in the north tower and 16 flight attendants and pilots on Flight 93 that went down in Shanksville, Pa. and Flight 175 that struck the south tower.

Two of her flight attendant friends, Amy King and Michael Tarrou of Stafford Springs, had been engaged to be married, she said.

To honor the memory of her friends and their courage, Weatherwax still wears her United Airlines wings pin.

“It’s never routine,” she said about the annual ceremony. “This year I dread it more than others, maybe because it’s a milestone.”

Dewey Loselle, Westport’s operations director, attends the memorial each year, too. He admits it is painful to relive that day, and that 9/11 changed him.

He had been working for Deloitte, meeting with Port Authority on the 63rd floor of Tower 1 when the plane struck building.

“We were one of the last ones out,” he recalled about a long descent through smoky stairwells. He said he was one of 1,500 people who got out.

“It was a day very similar to this one, a day of clear skies,” Loselle said.

Loselle said that until recently it was not something he could talk about. He also said it took a while before he could fly again and be in large crowds.

Among those in attendance were Angela McKeon of Fairfield and Bob Smith of North Branford. Neither lost friends or family members in 9/11. It was also the first time they had ever been to the Sherwood Island memorial.

“We just came out of respect,” said Smith.

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