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The day that never ends - everyone was affected by 9/11

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Navy Commander Patrick Dunn 

Twelve years ago, I lived on Staten Island.  You could not avoid or escape the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. 

Everyone knew someone who perished in the terror attacks that day -- a relative, a former classmate, a neighbor.

For months, wakes and memorial services were held in churches across the borough.  In the years that followed, you could drive for 15 minutes and pass as many as two dozen streets named in honor of fallen cops, firefighters or Wall Street secretaries.

Four years ago I moved to New Jersey.  It goes without saying that New Jersey residents of neighborhoods such as Middletown paid a horrendous toll that day. 

On the other hand, my neighborhood in Woodbridge didn’t seem to have as close a connection to the attacks.  It didn’t seem, for example, that quite as many people on my block worked in Manhattan.

Furthermore, a decade after 9/11, you pretty much thought you had heard of all the people connected in some way to the attacks.

Dunn Memorial

Then, I was out for a walk.  I happened past Our Lady of Peace Catholic middle school, located on Amboy Avenue.

A small plaque and memorial caught my attention.  It was dedicated in memory of Patrick Dunn, who was killed on September 11.

Dunn grew up in Woodbridge and attended Bishop Ahr Catholic High School in Edison.  Dunn’s father served in the Navy, as did his brother. 

Dunn eventually graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and went on to serve on the USS LaSalle and the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

In December 2000, Dunn was transferred to the Pentagon, where he would serve as surface warfare officer in the U.S. Naval Command Center.

On September 11, according to the Star Ledger, he called his brother, who worked in Manhattan, when he’d heard planes had crashed into the Twin Towers.  Dunn and so many others had no idea that another plane was headed to the Pentagon.

"He was extremely attached to his family and he was there when you needed him," one of Dunn’s sisters told the Star Ledger.

Dunn’s wife was pregnant with their first child when the attacks occurred.

Many people have already commented that the anniversary of the attacks will probably pass by with less and less fanfare, now that the 10th anniversary has come and gone.  That is terrible, especially since it seems that day has not even ended yet. 

Whether it is another first responder dying of cancer, or learning about someone such as Commander Patrick Dunn, we are still struggling to emerge from the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

True, when I lived on Staten Island, it seemed you couldn’t go a few blocks without a reminder.  But I was naive to think that moving to a different place would prove any different. 

Whether it was a street corner or a volunteer firehouse or a humble memorial at a Catholic middle school, it was inevitable that I would confront a poignant reminder of all that was lost that day.

Which is why it is so disheartening to read about the ongoing struggles to open a museum and memorial at Ground Zero.

“Aides to (Mayor) Bloomberg and (Governor) Cuomo have so far been unable to resolve their differences over which government agencies will pay the operating costs of the museum, which is intended to document the terrorist attacks of 2001 and honor the nearly 3,000 victims,” The New York Times reported on Saturday.

“The two sides also remain at odds over who will have oversight of the museum and the surrounding memorial.”

About this, I am not naive.  These things cost money, and it is fine that the mayor and governor do some work to figure out how to pay the bills for this. 

But they had better figure it out. Memories of that day will inevitably fade. 

But that does not mean future generations must inevitably forget.  They will, in fact, crave to learn about and remember that awful day, and all memorials, big or small, play a role in that.

As Americans, we deserve - we need – a grand museum and memorial in lower Manhattan.  It’s also the least we can do for the widow, for the daughter, of people such as Commander Patrick Dunn.

(Contact “Sidewalks” at tdeignan.blogspot.com or tomdeignan@earthlink.net)

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