Delivered to 15,000 Plainfield "doorsteps" Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday

Monday, September 10, 2018

9/11: Observing the day that changed everything

Giant plumes of smoke and ashes rise above lower Manhattan
after the collapse of the twin towers. This photo was taken
in the afternoon from the foot of the lookout
at Washington Rock Park.
(Photo by Dan Damon, Plainfield Public Information Officer)

9/11 is the day that changed everything.

Plainfield's annual commemoration of 9/11 will take place Tuesday at 8:30 AM at City Hall Plaza.

While America had been the subject of a devastating surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, with 2,335 persons losing their lives (and 1,143 wounded), the 9/11 attack was the first on American soil (Hawaii was not a state in 1941). 2,796 persons lost their lives on 9/11 -- including 2,606 at the twin towers and 265 airline passengers.

Suddenly, terrorism was on our doorstep.

Domestically, things have changed so as to be unrecognizable from after that date.

On 9/11, I took the picture at the top of this post from the Washington Rock monument. A week later, I flew from Newark to my niece's wedding in Tucson, AZ. On the flight out, I simply checked my bag, showed my boarding pass at the gate and got on the plane.

On Sunday, September 30, when I went to board the return flight at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, there was a security check -- with a metal detector AND wanding by a sheriff's deputy, including removing shoes, belts and dumping out the contents of my pockets. In less than two weeks, air travel had changed forever.

Back in those days, we were far less worried about security (and terrorism) in Plainfield. I mean, who would target our relatively sleepy town for anything, right?

The only security at City Hall was a buzzer on the Mayor's office, installed after resident Bill Hetfield harassed Cynthia Blake, then Mayor McWilliams' administrative assistant.

There was no police presence at the courthouse or City Hall Library when Council was in session, unless a rumpus was expected over a contentious meeting.

Today, we have metal detectors and police officers on duty at the Courthouse, City Hall and the Annex whenever the buildings are open. In addition, the hallways in City Hall are now monitored continuously by security cameras.

I was again put in mind of the change on Saturday morning in the arrangements for naming the Park-Madison Plaza in honor of the late Assemblyman Jerry Green.

Second Street, Madison Avenue and Park Avenue were blocked off by police vehicles, with only those with parking passes allowed through -- no traffic, causing snarls downtown.

At the event itself, there were droves of sheriff's officers and police, scrutinizing everyone who walked onto the plaza from whatever direction.

How different from the days when Christie Todd Whitman was governor (pre 9/11) and would visit Plainfield with only a cabinet member or two plus a couple of staff and walk around the streets shaking hands and talking with anyone who happened to be out and about.

Even when President George W. Bush visited Grace Church (at the invitation of Martin Cox, whose youth program was located there), the security arrangements by the Secret Service were limited to securing the building and blocking off the stretch of Cleveland Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets (protesters were allowed to assemble on 7th Street, within full view and earshot of the President as he walked into the church).

It does not look like we will ever return to the freedom of access and movement that residents enjoyed in those pre-9/11 days. That is why I say that things have changed forever.

And as part of that change, we pause every year on the anniversary of that terrible day: to remember the tragedy, to commemorate all the victims of the terror attack on both the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (including the 265 airplane passengers who died), and to recommit ourselves to unity and our American values.

Residents and officials will gather at the steps of City Hall on Tuesday, September 11. The commemoration, which is brief, is scheduled for 8:30 AM. It is best to arrive early, so as not to miss any of this moving ceremony.

Parking available in the rear of City Hall and on the street (unless posted).

 -- Dan Damon [ follow ]

View today's CLIPS  here. Not getting your own CLIPS email daily? Click here to subscribe.