Friday, August 12, 2022

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9/11 Ceremony: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive

By James Lomuscio

Though 12 years had passed, the pain and sense of loss were still there tonight for Redding Police Officer Chris Vadas at the state’s 9/11 ceremony at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport.

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A stone next to a name on the 9/11 Memorial reads: “Even though I didn’t meet you, I still miss you.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Helen Klisser During for WestportNow.com

“He was 37,” said Vadas, about his older brother Bradley Vadas, a Westport resident who died in the World Trade Center attacks.

“These are the kind of days that bring it back,” he said after placing a white rose at the 9/11 memorial.  “It brings it back for a lot of people.

On the eve of 9/11, Vadas was one of several hundred who had gathered tonight at the park’s pavilion and later at the memorial overlooking the Long Island Sound—the same place where onlookers had huddled that fateful day to watch smoke billow up as the Twin Towers fell, a day that changed the nation and world.

The memorial honors 161 victims with Connecticut ties out of the more than 2,700 who died that day. And as their relatives gathered here again, as they have every year since the 9/11 Memorial opened, the heartache was still fresh, the passing of years an illusion.

“He left a message with a friend that he was free for lunch before the first plane struck,”  said Cos Cob resident Diane Rasweiler whose brother Roger Mark Rasweiler, 53,  was killed, leaving behind a wife and three children.

She placed three white roses, one for each of his children, on Roger’s name chiseled in granite.

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Members of the Vadas family from Newtown were at the memorial service to honor Bradley Vadas of Westport. Chris Vadas, a Redding police officer, was Bradley’s brother and named his son, Bradley 11, after him. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Helen Klisser During for WestportNow.com

“He was older, so his children were lucky in that they got to know him,” she said.

That was not the case with a boy about 13 who wept while his grandfather consoled him after the boy placed a rose near his father’s name.

Or with the message painted on the flat stone next to the name of Bryan C. Bennett: “Even though I didn’t meet you, I still miss you.”

Emma Hunt of Essex, who has practically grown up at the ceremony, was only 15 months when her father William Christipher Hunt was killed.

Vadas said his son Matt was born two weeks after his brother was killed. The boy stepped up the microphone after the reading of the victims’ names to say the name of an uncle he had never met.

During the reading of the names, a roster that sounded as somberly as the tolling of a bell, there was dead silence among the crowd.

The only sounds were those of sea gulls squawking in the clear azure sky, a sky not unlike the one on that clear September morning when two terrorist, hijacked planes crashed into the towers, its repercussions changing America and world events.

“I, like everyone in the nation, was impacted that day,” said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a keynote speaker. “But not nearly as much as you who lost family members.”

Malloy encouraged family members never to “forget the greatness of the person …their smile.”

He also urged citizens never to become complacent, to understand there are those in the world who want to do America harm.

At the annual ceremony, Malloy was joined by a host of state and local officials. Among them were former Gov. Jodi Rell, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Daniel C. Esty, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmenal Protection, and Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff.

Malloy personally thanked Joseloff for his local leadership and noted that this was his last year in office. He recalled that before he was elected governor, he asked Joseloff to join him in a walk around the 9/11 memorial.

Brian Mattiello, former director of the Office of Family Support, led the ceremony, which included a cappella, patriotic songs performed by the U.S. Coast Guard Cadet Glee Club, and an emotionally powerful rendition of “Taps” by U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jimmie Johnson.

“Today we gather so that we might always remember and never forget,” Malloy said.

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