Last week I joined with fellow Rockland residents, my friends, my neighbors, my brother and sister first responders and the families of those who were taken from us to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks. Reopening our hearts to the emotions, the fear, the anger, the pain that we felt that bright Tuesday morning 19 years ago was not an easy task.

But the fact that we return to the County September 11 Memorial year after year to undergo that trial of will is a testament to our strength and resiliency as a community. It is also a reminder to the families of those who were lost that they are not alone and will never be alone.

This year has been more difficult than most. We have faced great challenges due to a situation outside of our control. Some even suggested that we should not have gathered this year. That was a suggestion that I refused to accept. The simple act of gathering together, reminding each other that we care, is too important to too many people.

This year we adapted to ensure the safety of those in attendance because we are all still dealing with the heinous wounds inflicted by the attacks of 19 years ago. And these moments of togetherness are necessary to help us all process their effects and the changes the years have brought. We must continue to stand by those who lost loved ones on that day and those who have since passed, and I know we will.

I especially thank those who were able to attend; coming together again, as friends, family, neighbors, an entire County united to speak loudly and clearly in support of the families who have suffered a grievous loss and for those who are still now losing their loved ones.

Those who were the first to offer a helping hand in the hours, days and weeks that followed these attacks are now being struck down. They are facing terrible cancers and diseases that ravage their bodies. People are still dying because of the hatred and cruelty of our enemies. The tragedy, the pain, is ongoing. The wounds from that day and since will forever be etched on our hearts, souls and bodies. To that end, we must redouble our efforts to ensure that a tragedy of this magnitude never happens again.

This task is ours and ours alone. We were attacked, we were tested by those who hate us and our way of life, but we did not falter. Let us all remember not only how the towers fell, but how we rose up, determined to defend our way of life. And how we continue to do so to this very day and will here after.

But the mere fact that we still come together as a community shows that the tragic deaths and the deaths of those in the 19 years since have unified this nation against hatred, against terrorism, against anything or anyone that threatens our freedom and our families. I ask that as we remember this anniversary, that we do not dwell on the pain or the loss. Let us instead focus on how we came together and continue to support each other despite any challenge. When we truly unite, there is no obstacle we cannot overcome.

While we must always remember, we must also never, ever forget. Let us all do what we can to preserve our way of life. Remember kindness, remember friendship, remember love, remember those that gave their lives for ours and live a life worthy of their sacrifice.

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