WESTAMPTON — Of the nearly 3,000 lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, seven had strong Burlington County ties.
And for the first time in the 19 years since that tragic day, the lives of all seven victims were honored at once, together, by the county they called home.
Burlington County held its first ever 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony Friday outside of its Emergency Services Training Center, where a piece of steel from the Twin Towers sits in the lobby.
"Why now? Why so long after the attacks and amid an ongoing pandemic?" Burlington County Deputy Director Tom Pullion asked in his opening remarks. "My answer is that we must."
Just like in the days after the World Trade Center fell, one look around at the first responders gathered and the face masks each wore proved the way we live our lives has forever been changed.
With the current health crisis, Burlington County officials wanted to make sure the memory of those who died and the heroism of those who sacrificed themselves to save others was not lost in the turmoil caused by COVID-19.
"Among those killed were seven people who lived in Burlington County or had strong ties here," Freeholder Dan O'Connell said. "Today we keep our vow to remember each of them and the family, friends and loved ones they left behind."
The elected officials also wanted to remind of the country's spirit in the aftermath of the attacks — a spirit Americans can and should adapt in the face of the country's current challenges.
"We became one national family, united in mourning but also in belief that together we can overcome whatever challenges we face today," Pullion said. "With our country once again facing enormous challenges, we need the same unity. The same resolve. And that same faith."
State Sen. Troy Singleton, in his remarks, urged the Burlington County community to honor those who died by coming together like the country did on Sept. 12, 2001, and by striving to be better.
"Now's our opportunity to recommit ourselves to those principles," Singleton said. "Those principles of community, of family, of one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Let us honor the memory of those of you last 19 years ago, striving to be better as we move forward.
Other speakers included U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina and Burlington County Freeholder Dan O'Connell.
Kim reflected on the time that has passed, and how its important to teach children born years, decades later the impact of the attacks and to carry on the memory of those lost.
"This isn't just a tragedy for our generation and those that were living 19 years ago, it is a tragedy for our country, now and forever," Kim said.
The seven victims from Burlington County who were killed on 9/11 are:
- Nicholas Bogdon, 34, of Pemberton Township. He worked on the 98th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center.
- Pamela Gaff, Westampton Native. She worked on the 102nd floor of the south tower at the World Trade Center.
- Joan D. Griffith, of Willingboro. She worked in the World Trade Center as an office manager and assistant vice president for Fiduciary Trust.
- LeRoy W. Homer Jr., 36, of Evesham. He was the first officer aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which had been hijacked by terrorists and diverted toward Washington, D.C., when it crashed in Shanksville, Pa.
- Gricelda James, 44, of Willingboro. She worked as an administrative assistant for International Office Centers in the World Trade Center.
- Patrick Quigley IV, Willingboro native. He was aboard the airliner that crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center.
- Kevin York, Pemberton Township native. He was a senior vice president for EuroBrokers Inc. and worked on the 84th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center.