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'Never Forget'

OWEGO — Dozens gathered at Hickories Park Wednesday morning in recognition of the 18th anniversary of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Between the tolling of bells at 8:46, 9:03 and 9:37 a.m., the Glenn A. Warner VFW Post 1371 Honor Guard stood at attention alongside local first responders, while various officials spoke of the importance to “never forget” the event.

“We are here today to pay tribute to our fallen brothers and sisters,” said Deacon Mike Donovan during the invocation. “Throughout history, we have used major events to mark time. Two numbers will mark time in American history — 9/11.”

Owego Town Supervisor Don Castellucci gave opening comments, which reminded all to understand the great number of those who gave their lives during and after the attack.

“Most of us recall where we were at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11,” he said. “Eighteen years later, we sometimes still feel like it was yesterday. The pictures on social media, the media accounts, are forever etched in our minds.”

“Today, we remember 2,977 victims and over 6,000 individuals that were injured,” said Castellucci. “Many are still passing from the injuries sustained that day. We remember 343 firemen, 23 policemen, 37 port authority officers and 3 court security officers.”

“406 individuals answered the call that day, so that you and I may live in freedom,” he said. “In 2018, it was reported that an additional 241 NYPD officers had died, and 170 NYFD firefighters had died since 2001.”

This year another 22 firefighters were added to the NYFD memorial in September, Castellucci continued.

Through 2018, 10,000 first responders and others at the ground zero area have been diagnosed with cancer, and more than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11 illnesses, he said.

“This is just one more reason that we should never forget,” said Castellucci. “We remember the initial death tolls, but as time passes, those numbers continue to rise.”

He also noted that those figures did not include the 2,219 members of the U.S. military that died, the 1,700 U.S. civilian contractors that died, nor the 20,019 wounded in the Afghanistan war.

In Iraq, Castellucci said 4,432 members of the U.S. military have died, while 31,994 have been wounded.

“Those numbers do not include the increasing veteran suicide crisis that occurs in this country every day,” he said.

Castellucci also gave thanks to local first responders for their sacrifices to the local community.

“I want to thank all the members of emergency services and veterans,” he said. “You are forever vigilant in protecting our lives, homes and freedoms. Without you, we wouldn’t be standing here today.”

State Sen. Fred Akshar also shared moving words, not only of the resolve of first responders, but the country as well.

“We are here to remember the most tragic day in our great nation’s recent history” Akshar said. “A once-in-a-generation event — like the greatest generation’s Pearl Harbor; or the Kennedy assassination, what that was to the baby boomer generation.”

“When we were attacked on 9/11, thousands of innocent people lost their lives to those who sought to tear us down as a nation,” he continued. “And while we remember and honor those that lost their lives that day, it’s also important to remember this issue and this word of ‘unity’ that we saw in the moments in the days and weeks that followed.”

“I, like you, remember watching members of congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — standing on the steps of the capital singing God Bless America,” Akshar said. “Political persuasion that day didn’t matter. That day was proof that while there are those that try to destroy us, we can and will still stand together to help one another and those around us.”

Passage of time shouldn’t diminish the unity we saw, he continued.

“The voices and evil forces that seek to divide us, may be louder than ever — those voices and evil might come from outside our country, outside our community, outside our close group of friends and outside our family, but they also come from within,” said Akshar. “Today, let us remember what is truly important — that despite our differences, we are one community and we are one nation of Americans. That which brings us together will always vastly outweigh that which seeks to divide us.”

NYS Police Sgt. Marty Kopacko shared his experience visiting the site shortly after the attack.

“My first experience with 9/11 was a detail that headed there several weeks after the attack,” he explained. “I saw firsthand the destruction, despair and the attempts by all to try to find some semblance of understanding of what had happened.”

“My first view of ground zero was crossing the George Washington Bridge and watching the smoke come up the island, smelling it as we went down the west side highway,” Kopacko continued. “Standing next to the large crane, watching them pick pieces off what was still a three-and-a-half story tall pile of debris. Asking my coworker, where’s all this dust and dirt coming from? Not realizing that the concrete was pulverized on its way down, into a fine powder. The stuff we were breathing, we were walking in.”

“I remember feeling very crowded, standing on the west side highway, trying to sense what was around me,” Kopacko said. “It was the souls of those who had departed. They were there. They were watching.”

“Nearly a generation has come since the attack, and we need to share our stories with them and make them understand so that they may never forget,” he said.

New York Court Police Officer Matt Talon said “On that day, many were running from those buildings; many were trapped and couldn’t run. As this took place, there were some who ran toward the chaos. They threw caution aside in an effort to help those trapped. Many of these men and women never to make it out alive.”

Waverly police chief advises residents of upcoming events

WAVERLY — The Village of Waverly is set to be quite busy with community events this fall, and Police Chief Dan Gelatt is reminding residents that with those events will come traffic and parking changes on certain days this month and next month.

First on the village’s slate of events is the Evan Davies 3v3 Basketball Tournament, which is scheduled for Sept. 21 and will unfold on Broad Street.

“The portion of Broad Street between Fulton (Street) and Pennsylvania (Avenue) will be closed very early Saturday morning and all parking will be prohibited throughout the day and early evening,” Gelatt said. “Vehicles left parked in the tournament area will be towed.”

Sept. 28 will be an especially busy day in the village — kicking off with the Baby Bristol 5K Run/Walk at 9 a.m. at the Waverly High School. The event is being organized by the Waverly Police Association and Waverly Teacher’s Association.

“Baby Bristol — whose parents are a Waverly Police Officer and a Waverly teacher — was born with a heart condition and has experienced a very tough first few months with many medical procedures as she works toward becoming healthy,” Gelatt said.

Beginning at 10 a.m. that same day, the Waverly Fall Fest returns to East Waverly Park.

“The race route will not require any major road closures, but residents should be advised to expect delays and slow downs as the event occurs,” Gelatt noted.

Parades, while a fun, integral part of any community, are also sure to snag a little bit of traffic, and Waverly’s homecoming and Halloween parades are two that travelers will want to mark down.

First up will be the homecoming parade, which is slated for 10 a.m. on Oct. 19.

“The parade will begin ... on Broad Street and will finish at Waverly Memorial Stadium on Elm Street,” the chief said. “Residents should expect temporary road closures before and during the event. Residents are also asked to not park along the parade route.”

The following week at the same time, on Oct. 26, will be the Halloween parade, said Gelatt. That parade will begin on Broad Street and end at Muldoon Park on Pennsylvania Avenue. Like the homecoming parade, residents are asked not to park along the parade route.

Cornhole players to compete for Athens man battling ALS

ATHENS — Cornhole players will have a chance to compete for a good cause on Saturday at the fourth annual Friends of Jay Schultz tournament.

The tournament, which will be held at Tanner’s Bar and Grill, raises money for former Athens High School standout athlete Jay Schultz, who was diagnosed with ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — in 2009.

The 54-year-old Athens native is battling the progressive nervous system disorder that gradually destroys the nerves responsible for muscle movement.

Cindy Millard, who is a close friend to the Schultz family and organizer of the tournament, credits Jay’s wife, Kelly, with helping him through this battle.

“She is marvelous. If there was some way to recognize her. The girl has no medical training and she takes care of (Jay). She’s just amazing,” Millard said. “A lot of women would have cut and run and a lot of men would have too, but they exemplify courage, dignity, grace — and most of all faith and love. Jay told Kelly that as long as there is hope he will fight, so we have to keep hoping.”

While he may be battling ALS now and unable to compete himself, back in the day Jay Schultz was “a fierce competitor” according to Millard.

“The last game that I played with Jay was cornhole, so that’s how it came to be a cornhole event,” said Millard. “If you knew Jay back in the day, that boy could talk smack. He’s a fierce competitor, but never a sore loser. If you beat him, he’d laugh as hard as you did. He didn’t want to lose and he sure as heck wasn’t going to let you win.”

Millard was quick to praise Tanner’s owners Ryan Wood and John Thurston for jumping at the chance to help Schultz.

“They are amazing. Everything I need they are right there for. They take care of everything,” said Millard, who noted Tanner’s always donates a portion of the money made at the bar to the Schultz family. “It’s not about them at all, it’s about Jay. They are just so humble and just down-home, honest folk, you don’t find that much anymore.”

The event begins with cornhole registration at 11 a.m. The tournament will begin at noon. Cost per team is $20. There will also be 50-50 and basket raffles as well as food and drinks for sale.

editor / Photo Provided  

The Athens Area High School Homecoming Court was announced last week. The court and Queen, along with Mr. Athens, will be recognized at halftime of the Wildcats’ Homecoming football game on Friday, Sept. 20 against visiting Canton. The 2019 Homecoming Court is pictured here, from top to bottom, Bailey Dakos, Makenna Yeakel, Lauren Walter, Adrianna Carter, Lily Kinsman and Cassidy Chandler.