Montclair Makes Administrative Decision to End Annual 9/11 Ceremonies At Watchung Plaza (Updated)

Update: 9/11 will be observed before the Sept. 11 Montclair town council meeting. Here’s the official statement:

Montclair Township will hold a 9-11 Commemoration at the beginning of the Tuesday, September 11 Council conference meeting. The meeting will convene at 7:00 p.m. in the Second Floor Conference Room and move to the First Floor Council Chambers at 205 Claremont Avenue for the Commemoration. During the observance the names of Montclair’s 9-11 vicitims will be read and attendees will pause for a moment of silence.

The meeting will reconvene in the Second Floor Conference Room immediately following the observance.

Update: Former councilor Cary Africk was surprised to learn of the decision and said he was not informed of the decision when he was councilor. “”There were many things Marc [Dashield] decided on his own. This, apparently was one of them.”

Montclair will not hold a ceremony at Watchung Plaza this year to mark the 11th anniversary of 9/11. According to communications director Katya Wowk, “it was an adminstrative decision to wind down the 9/11 annual ceremony.” Wowk adds that the township will have a bagpiper at the September 11 council meeting and there will be a moment of silence along with a reading of the names of the victims from Montclair.

Now that the town will no longer be commemorating the anniversary annually, Wowk says she is not sure when the next commemorative ceremony would take place, but possbly on the 20th anniversary. Meanwhile, Essex County will continue its annual remembrance at the Eagle Rock 9/11 memorial this year, at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11.

A brief program with family members who lost a loved one in the tragedies, elected officials and clergy members from diverse religious faiths will be held; memorial wreaths will be laid at the monument and a new American flag will be raised. A string quartet will perform reverent selections of music at the memorial site after the ceremony until 2 p.m.

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  1. I’ve been thinking about this since I first heard… At first I though, yea, makes sense.

    Now though, I think not. I went to the Watchung memorial a few times. It seemed like a somber, simple affair- meaningful to me, and certainly to those other folks (including the families) there.

    It didn’t seem to require much in terms of planning, time, etc. So, why?

    Wowk’s odd wording (she’s the “communications” official?), “… to wind down the 9/11 annual ceremony” makes no sense. “Wind down”? Huh?

    I thought I lived in a community that wouldn’t feel the need to “wind down” a memorial service for such a tragic event. An event that brought/brings folks together. [Years ago when I was a student at NYU, I always wondered why every year or so, I’d see the Mayor, and a few officials on the East side of Wash. Sq. Park, on Washington Pl. It wasn’t until I stopped to read the plaque, that I realized the NYU building I worked in was home to the Triangle Shirt Factory. And still, years later, NYC held a simple ceremony.]

    Instead in Montclair we get, what? A bagpiper at a Council meeting.

    I don’t use it often, but all I can think of is: Shame on Montclair.

  2. Makes sense to forgo an elaborate ceremony every year. As an example, we don’t commemorate the shooting at the Fairfield Street post office anymore. That doesn’t mean people have forgotten. It just means that the emotions of the event are not as raw.

  3. No amount of pomp and ceremony can bring back those lost or those we are losing due to the after effects. It is time to stop this from being a public display and become a private matter.

    Now can the council do something about that tombstone -opps- I mean bench on the high school campus ? While a wonderful memory to one student it is also ostentatious and overwhelms the memories of MHS each time any other student drives past.

  4. Yes, I can hear those who say it is no longer necessary. And I can hear those who say, “It doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten.” Those people miss the point.

    Of course it is unnecessary. It’s a symbolic gesture. So is saying, “Thank you.” So is making an appearance at the wake or funeral of a friend’s loved one. No one has to do it… but some people do. They don’t find an excuse. They don’t say, “I’m so sorry, but I was busy.” They just show up.

    As was noted above, it did not seem to be a complex affair, but a brief, somber and solemn one. Those, I believe, are the ones that are most meaningful — especially those of us who were here… those of us who were THERE… and those who are no longer with us.

    “Winding down” the ceremony smacks of simple laziness. I guess it was just an inconvenience to people who have more important things to do.

  5. @ hrhppg … Sorry, I don’t personally like the design of the “Tony bench” either, but it’s there. And every time I see it, it reminds me to tell my kids to never ever play on the train tracks. A lesson for all of us, perhaps, that bears repeating about innocent, yet careless behavior with awful consequences… such as the teenager’s death on a bus last week while riding to a Sweet 16 party.

  6. Everytime that I’ve passed by the Watchung 9/11 memorial, one word always jumps into my mind about it : Inadequate.

  7. Oh Herb, I’m sorry my Pearl Harbor Day invite to your somber event must have gotten lost in the mail. Don’t worry I’ll be the first one at your memorial this year. Even my Grandparents who remember that day, and GP who fought in the Pacific after, had long stopped memorializing it before I was born.

    I have the deaths of my own friends as a memory sophomore. It may be there and I have to accept it but I don’t have to like it or keep quiet about it. There are many ways to remember someone with grace and dignity.

  8. I did answer the question, because in time all things must come to an end. So tell us all about your Pearl Harbor Memorial last year….no ? Next.

  9. I wonder what the reaction would be if towns decided to start “winding down” MLK Day cermonies.

    People actually go to those, herb.

    If you think the 9/11 ceremony is so important, feel free to coordinate one. Maybe you can get more than four people to show up. That’s about the crowd that pays their respects every 9/11 at the township-sponsored event.

  10. It is not the attendance figures which should matter so much, nickcharles, as the importance of the gesture of symbolic commemoration. Herb is right here.

    By the time of the 20th anniversary of this event (which Ms. Wowk says she isn’t sure will be a day of commemoration), Ms. Wowk will of course likely be long gone from her current job.

  11. It is not the attendance figures which should matter so much, nickcharles, as the importance of the gesture of symbolic commemoration

    I agree that not every act of government should be judged by how many people attend, but if year after year Montclair holds an event that fewer and fewer people attend, I don’t see why the town can’t commemorate in some other way (say, a moment of silence at a council meeting). Just as NYC (or whoever sponsors it) decided 10 years was enough for the pillars of light, 10 years is probably enough of an annual 9/11 ceremony that barely anyone is interested in.

  12. While I understand your argument, nickcharles, the fact remains that 9/11 at the WTC is in many ways “our” Pearl Harbor. But, unfortunately, with a higher, more localized death toll. That alone might earn continuance for a local commemoration.

    Pearl Harbor, contrastingly, is commemorated daily in Hawaii. They make you watch that short film narrated by Pearl Harbor survivor Jason Robards before you even board the tourist boats out to the Arizona. And then there is all that oil, which still visibly leaks out from the battleship.

    In almost every small town in England, Wales and Scotland, Remembrance Day is still cause for notice and honoring of the dead. If their town councilors are never too busy…

  13. Unfortunately, this is the natural progression of things. Despite the ominous glow of the new 1WTC tower hovering above our rooftops, serving as a constant reminder, most people seem to have “moved on” from 9/11.

  14. Cathar,

    I have visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial and it’s extremely moving. The only thing you hear is the hum of the coffee plant in the distance. Thousands visit it yearly but according to these people why bother it’s 70 years ago.

    Nick, I wouldn’t be so quick to make assumptions as you know nothing about the experiences and causes people on this board are active in (besides saving dogs). It’s extremely foolish of you as usual.

    Each year Veterans Day ceremonies are sparsely attended and most have seem to ignore Memorial Day only that it kicks off the summer. Granted those are holidays but only a minority of people attend the ceremonies, should we do away with them as well?

    Do we start chosing what events to cancel by attendance?

    The same people that have this attitude are the same people that are oblivious to most things around them until something tragic happens and the only thing they can say is ” well, that put things in perspective”. Dive into the issue for a few days and then move on.

    Here you go. I don’t think this guy feels the way most of you do.

  15. The county does an excellent Septemeber 11th service. Figures it takes a progressive place like Montclair to cancel the cermeony. Pretty soon towns will refrain from them because they don’t want to offend anyone. Believe you me, that day is coming.

  16. Do we start chosing what events to cancel by attendance?

    Yes. Why is this so hard a concept for you to grasp? The attendance for these things was in the single digits, and there really doesn’t seem to be much outrage here either, aside from you. If no one’s interested, why bother? There are countless other 9/11 commemorations for someone to go to, while the actual site is 12 miles away. It’s not the end of the world if every town in NJ doesn’t have a 9/11 ceremony.

  17. herbeverschmel – “I wonder what the reaction would be if towns decided to start “winding down” MLK Day cermonies.”

    Revealing that you chose MKL Day as a point of comparison and the real meaning behind it.

    I think we all know.

  18. The 9/11 memorial event at Watchung was always well attended. Last year there was certainly in excess of 50 people.

    That memorial did not require a lot of “town resources,” nor did the “old” Council “decide” to stop having them. The Manager decided, perhaps with the approval of the new Council. The suggested “substitute” in Council “chambers” is an insult, in my opinion. An “oh well, if you insist.”

    9/11 was a watershed moment, a loss of innocence. Our family was impacted. That morning, for over three hours, I couldn’t locate my wife. As time went by panic set in. Word leaked out in the schools, and our children were terrified. Fortunately for us, my wife wasn’t at the building. But many acquaintances were, including those that didn’t make it out.

    We changed.

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