River Fest commemorates 9/11 tragedy

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-20, commemorated the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the start of River Fest. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

COEYMANS — It has been 21 years since a pair of airplanes struck the World Trade Center, and terrorist attacks in a field in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon sent the nation into mourning.

More than two decades later, ceremonies and commemorations honored those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the sacrifices made by the first responders who rendered aid to the injured and fallen.

In Coeymans, the third annual River Fest was held at Coeymans Landing to remember that tragic day but also to celebrate the nation’s ability to unite in the face of tragedy.

“9/11 impacted everyone tragically, but I want to celebrate and remember that we came together as one, as one country,” said River Fest Committee Chairwoman Rosemary McHugh. “Back on 9/11, it didn’t matter what color we were or where we were from. Everyone pulled together — firefighters, first responders, medical teams, the list goes on and on. We came together and we helped one another as a country.”

She would like that sense of unity and togetherness to return to American society.

“Since then, I feel so much has happened and we feel divided,” McHugh said. “So I do this because if we were able to unite back then during those tragic times, why can’t we come together as one country all the time.”

Minister Steven Boxley from Macedonia of Albany Church, who grew up in Coeymans, presented the blessing at the start of the event.

“As we embark upon another anniversary of Sept. 11, we ask that we bless those who gave of themselves to save so many,” Boxley said. “We ask for a blessing for the families of those first responders as they continue to grieve.”

U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-20, said remembering the tragic events of 9/11, and the sacrifices that were made that day and in the days to come, is important in keeping those memories alive.

“We need to remember the fallen heroes and to remember what drove that moment and what drove our recovery,” Tonko said. “As we pay tribute to the land of the free and the home of the brave, it is that sentiment, that spirit, that tenet of faith that was under attack, I believe, but it was also that same spirit that raised us, that underpinned us and had us respond to that darkest moment in our nation’s history so that we could recover and show the world, as the beacon of hope that we are, that there was light at the end of the tunnel.”

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, said he has attended River Fest every year since its inaugural festival, and said it is about remembering the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and those who died and sacrificed that day.

“It is about our first responders, our police, our rescue and our belief in God — that is what this is about,” Tague said. “Let’s not forget what happened, let’s not forget the people that made sacrifices on that day, and most importantly, let’s not forget how our country came together during that time. We could use a little bit of that right now — we need our country to come together as one. We are Americans first.”

Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, honors the fallen and first responders during a 9/11 tribute at River Fest. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media
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