MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- Community members from Mount Kisco and the village's neighbors gathered on Friday evening to mark the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The gathering, which was held at the local 9/11 memorial, was organized by the Mount Kisco Fire Department. Firefighters from Bedford Hills, Bedford Village, Chappaqua and Katonah also joined; their departments have participated for multiple years in the village.
Mount Kisco firefighter Rich Alexander, a retired New York City firefighter who served on 9/11, recalled meeting Father Mychal Judge , the city fire department chaplain who was killed in the attack. The encounter, which took place weeks prior to 9/11, was immediately after an event that Alexander and his wife attended.
Following a conversation, Alexander recalled, Judge asked them if they wanted to hear a joke.
“He looked at us and he said 'How do you make God laugh?'”
Alexander remembered not having an answer before adding what Judge said next.
“He got me and he said 'tell God what you're doing tomorrow.'”
Alexander also recalled the participation of neighboring fire departments in the aftermath of 9/11, including a Chappaqua firetruck that was stationed in the Bronx for calls and in seeing a Bedford Hills firetruck by St. Patrick's Cathedral following a victim's funeral.
Fellow Mount Kisco firefighter Paul Felice noted the local connections to the response.
“We are extremely fortunate to have amongst our volunteer ranks here in Mount Kisco six New York City firefighters, all of whom participated in the rescue operation at Ground Zero but were not injured in the collapse.”
The service included an annual tradition for the anniversary, where a group of first responders and Boy Scouts replaced a U.S. flag that was brought to all three sites of the attacks with another that was part of the same trip.
The trip was taken in August 2011, according to Felice, and included 50 flags, 45 of which will be flown and exchanged annually at future ceremonies. The changing of the flags was done as members of the Mount Kisco Ancient Fife and Drum Corps played an instrumental rendition of "America The Beautiful."
Mount Kisco Mayor Michael Cindrich, who called the loss of life “devastating for the entire world," encouraged the public to also remember first responders and construction workers who have gotten sick following their work at the World Trade Center site in the aftermath of 9/11, a number that he predicted will grow as time passes.
The mayor also honored members of the military who were killed or injured following 9/11, and asked the crowd to remember those killed in earlier terrorist attacks, such as the 1983 bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, the 1993 World Trade Center attack and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.
Peter Harckham, a former Westchester County legislator who now works for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, spoke on his behalf and in sympathy to those who were lost.
Harckham also noted Cuomo's local ties; Cuomo lives in New Castle, just west of the town line.
"He's been to this ceremony before," he said, "He's been down to the monument with his daughters.”
An opening prayer was offered by Rabbi Aaron Brusso of Bet Torah, while Rev. Steven Clark of St. Francis of Assisi Parish delivered the closing prayer. The event concluded with people placing carnations on the memorial.