Shelby Township holds remembrance ceremony on 9/11

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 11, 2017

 From left, Macomb County Treasurer Larry Rocca, Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide, Shelby Township Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski and Shelby Township Veterans Coordinator Phil Randazzo gaze flag-ward during the 9/11 memorial ceremony at the Shelby Township Veterans Memorial.

From left, Macomb County Treasurer Larry Rocca, Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide, Shelby Township Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski and Shelby Township Veterans Coordinator Phil Randazzo gaze flag-ward during the 9/11 memorial ceremony at the Shelby Township Veterans Memorial.

Photo by Donna Agusti

On Sept. 11, dozens of community members gathered to remember the lives lost and the heroic actions taken in response to the terrorist attacks on that date in 2001.

Shelby Township Veterans Coordinator Phil Randazzo unveiled the new base for the township's Global War on Terror monument, now displaying the countries — Iraq and Afghanistan — where local soldiers fell, as well as the brand new Defense of the Homeland Memorial at the township municipal grounds.

The Defense of the Homeland Memorial features two dates: Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001. The dates mark attacks on the United States of America — on Pearl Harbor and New York City — and the beginning of two wars, respectively: World War II and the Global War on Terror.

The dates are crafted out of black aluminum and are situated on steel tracks, so the letters and numbers appear to float, which was the look that Randazzo said he was going for.

“(These wars) brought about many millions and millions of deaths, injuries, sicknesses, and all sorts of hardships to the fine soldiers up here, residents of the township who are still considered residents of the township,” Randazzo said.

He said the two I-beams on the memorial, fashioned out of gray steel, the left one reaching taller than the right, represent both the sunken battleships at Pearl Harbor and the collapsed towers in New York City.

“All of the people (involved in Pearl Harbor) are pretty much gone and not around anymore, and the date is dropping out of sight, so that’s why I put the date up here — so it’s always going to be remembered, just like 9/11,” Randazzo said.

Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis served as the speaker during the event.

“Few of us will ever forget where we were and what we were doing as the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolded 16 years ago, and our parents’ generation felt that same shock about the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Stathakis said.

“Both of these dates represent terrible acts of cowardice, when our nation was attacked without warning or provocation, but as we have seen throughout our history, these days also represent our nation at our best,” he said. “Too often we seem to be a nation divided — blue states stand apart from red states, and tensions are actually derived from social differences that are ever present.”

When tested, however, Stathakis said that the nation comes together due to the common bonds of love for county and each other.

He said the memorial reminded him of the loss of life and heroic acts of those who aided the victims of both attacks, as well as the power and ability of the country when its people set aside their differences.

“It is not only the attacks on our homeland that bring us together; I look to the aid rallied across our nation for those affected by Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma,” Stathakis said. “When we see fellow citizens in need or under attack, our first inclination is, ‘How can I help?’”

He praised the soldiers, police officers and firefighters who served the United States in 1941, 2001 and today.

“Let this memorial also remind us that we do not need attacks on our homeland to prompt us to love and support one another,” he said.

The ceremony was heralded in by the placing of a wreath by veteran and 41-A District Court Chief Judge Stephen S. Sierawski; a performance of the national anthem by Tracy Murray; the Pledge of Allegiance led by Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski and Police Chief Robert Shelide; and an invocation by David Klemm, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church.

A siren salute by the township’s Fire and Police departments rounded out the event.

State Rep. Diana Farrington, R-Utica, attended the event along with other local dignitaries, officials, first responders and community members.

“It’s been 16 years, and what a great remembrance of all the first responders and the people that serve our country and our communities on a daily basis,” Farrington said. “I always get teary-eyed. It’s very sentimental. It’s my pleasure to be here.”