More than two decades have now passed since the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the gravity of that traumatic day still weighs heavy on New Yorkers who lost loved ones on that day of infamy.
Nothing exemplified that sentiment more than Audrey Holder, a senior who rolled up to the memorial pool at the National September 11 Memorial in Lower Manhattan in a wheelchair. She pulled herself up from the chair so she could touch the name of her loved one, John Joseph “Jack” Fanning.
For 21 long years, New Yorkers have also pulled themselves up each Sept. 11 to listen to the victims’ names read aloud — the men and women who were taken too soon. They were office workers, window washers and cooks just trying to get through a normal workday; they were firefighters and police officers who ran into the terrible danger, seeking to save as many lives as they could, only to be taken in the Twin Towers’ collapse.
Jacqueline Fanning was 22 years old when she experienced the worst day of her life — the loss of her father, John Joseph “Jack” Fanning, an FDNY 54 Battalion Chief. He was the head of the department’s hazardous materials operations unit and was one of the first responders during the World Trade Center 1993 bombing. On 9/11, Fanning, who was helping rescue those trapped, died inside of the South Tower when it collapsed.
“It’s had a big impact on my life. I want my father to be remembered for how humble, funny, and dedicated he was to the fire department,” Jacqueline Fanning said.
“Courageous,” Audrey Holder, Jacqueline’s mother, added. “I just want him to be remembered for the courageous man that he was. He saved a lot of people. He was just a phenomenal firefighter and a great battalion chief.”
Fanning’s body was never recovered, and for his family, the World Trade Center site is his gravesite.
“I don’t want to ever forget this. It is also our gravesite because we have nowhere to go. This is where he was,” Jacqueline Fanning said.
Sergeant Morales also does not want the world to forget his cousin, Ruben David Correa, a 44-year-old firefighter with Engine 74.
He emphasized the importance of continuing the remembrance ceremony because grief does not measure in time but in heartache. Morales also admonished the use of the word Sept. 11th “anniversary,” he believes commemoration is more appropriate since it is a somber occasion.
Pointing about 100 feet or so from the South Towers’ reflective pool, he shared that this was where his cousin died, in the Marriott Hotel after the towers fell.
“This is my cousin Ruben. He died in the Marriott; he did not die in the tower. Not everyone died in the towers. There were other areas where the people were killed…My cousin was inside the Marriott and [his body] was never found. These firefighters that went inside the Marriott, they got everybody out. Forty-one firefighters and two employees died inside of the Marriott,” Sergeant Morales said.
Prominent elected officials and notable figures joined the ceremony.
Vice President Kamala Harris, Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, NYPD Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and more were among those paying their respects to the fallen.