By James Lomuscio
By 5:15 p.m. today, even the fastest wipers strained to keep up with the downpour that caused flooding near storm sewers around town. Like flashbulbs, lightning bolts blinded. The thunder contributed its own jolts.
Sondra Toner of Rockland County reacts to a sudden violent crack of thunder as she studies a 9/11 memorial wall today at Sherwood Island State Park that includes the name of her late brother, Joel Miller. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
It was a sure bet that the Connecticut Remembers September 11 Memorial Ceremony at Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park — the state’s home to the CT 9/11 Living Memorial — would be postponed
But this was a resilient group, ones who soldiered on after losing loved ones to the World Trade Center attacks and hijacked planes 17 years ago.
A little rain, or in this case, a lot of it, wouldn’t deter their resolve to honor their loved ones, 161 from Connecticut.
By 5:25 p.m. a number of cars filled the parking lot in front of the parks’ waterfront pavilion. And those assembled — including victims’ families, state and local officials, the U.S. Coast Guard Cadet Glee Club, Bethel High School’s ROTC Color Guard, and students from Bridgeport’s Geraldine W. Johnson School — were a little wet, but no worse for the wear. One volunteer handed out paper towels.
“This is the perfect day because we’re all together,” Brian Mattiello, former director of the state’s Office of Family Support, said as he took to the microphone.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was making his last appearance as governor at the 9/11 memorial ceremony. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
The crowd cheered.
“Moments like this bring clarity, goodness,” he added.
Each year the ceremony has witnessed children who were not even born yet when their fathers were killed grow up. And each year, the weather has been clear, the sky crisp azure, just like the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 when 2,996 were murdered and the nation changed.
“Here we are 17 years out, and each anniversary carries its own power,’ Mattiello said.
He compared the country and survivors to an oak tree with strong roots and a wide trunk that despite a trauma that has disfigured some of its trunk, continues to thrive.
“We are like that tree,” said Mattiello. “It’s best to honor those who were lost with resilience.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, attending the event for the last time as governor, said that due to the weather those present would not be able to place the white roses that had been handed out on the names of their loved ones at the outdoor memorial. Each year, the placement of flowers is a major part of the ceremony.
“It has challenged and changed American from that day forward,” Malloy said, adding the attacks left citizens questioning their vulnerability.
Malloy recalled that the day the attack took place, he was mayor of Stamford. He said he spent time at the city’s train station watching commuters come in, “their faces covered with ashes.”
As the rain poured down outside the pavilion, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman also referenced the weather, saying, “These are your tears … our tears are out there.”
“Most of the time it’s sunny and bright, and we remember their smiles,” she said.
The ceremony ended with “Taps” by Marine Cpl. Brian Drury followed by benediction by Pastor Rob Morris of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown.
As it concluded, Joanne Waters of Litchfield clutched her white rose, the one she would have placed on her son’s name at the memorial beyond all the pools of rain.
“I’m going to take it home,” she said. “I don’t want to get struck by lightning.”
Her daughter Karen Smart said the same. Each would take the flowers home to remember James Thomas Waters, who had been a trader for KBW on the 89th floor of the second World Trade Center tower.
“I feel like it’s yesterday,” Joanne Waters said.
What sustains her, she said, are “my kids and my grandchildren.”