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Westwood Honors Those Lost on 9/11

Residents came out for the annual candlelight vigil Sunday night

Residents gathered at the 9/11 memorial in in Westwood Sunday night for the annual ceremony to commemorate the terrorist attacks.

Some brought flags and candles to show their patriotism and respect on the 10th anniversary of violent attacks that took the lives of four Westwood residents and thousands of others throughout the state, country and world.

Liz Takack of Westwood said she had connections to some of the people lost from the borough. She graduated high school with Daphne Pouletsos and worked at in 2001, where Michael Wholey's son attended.

"It's something to honor those who died during that tragic day," Takack said of the ceremony. "And to show support for the families and everybody."

Westwood resident Marianne Heymann said she saw the Riccardelli family, which lost husband and father Francis 10 years ago, in church. Her husband's nephew, of Emerson, also died that day.

"It's patriotic," Heymann said, "and a way to support our town."

The event didn't just draw those from Westwood, however. Amy Aynedjian of Washington Township also came to honor and remember those who lost their lives.

"Innocent people went to work and intended to come home," she said. "It's not like going to war."

After watching coverage of the ceremony in New York City Sunday, Dulce Acevedo of Westwood decided to attend the borough ceremony.

"It's something that touched all of us," she said.

The ceremony was "simple," according to organizer Skip Kelley, the former mayor of Westwood. He began doing the ceremony 10 years ago, the night of Sept. 11, 2001, and hasn't stopped since. He said the main focus is honoring those lost. There were no speeches, but a short invocation from Pastor Thomas Pranschke from and an introduction from Kelley.

"For the families, it's another day without their loved ones," Kelley said. "And that's why we're here ever year. We're here for them."

Kelley reminded the crowd of the four Westwood residents lost 10 years ago -- , , Kalyan Sarkar and Michael Wholey.

He also asked people to remember Marine Sgt. Christopher Hrbek of Westwood who was killed while fighting in Afghanistan in January 2010.

"He wouldn't have been there had it not been for that fateful day," Kelley said. "So we want to remember him."

Kelley also mentioned the 343 firemen who died 10 years ago. The color guard participated in the ceremony.

Beth Staples and Vicki Fisk, best friends to Pouletsos, sang two verses of "The Star Spangled Banner" during the ceremony. A joint choir from area churches also sang for the group.

Then there was a moment of silence to remember the fallen, followed by recordings of moving songs, including "Proud to Be an American," "We Are the World," "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)" and "God Bless America."

While the songs played, the crowd was quiet, reflecting on what happened 10 years ago and remembering those lost.

Kelley ended the ceremony with a simple request -- that everyone in attendance perform a kind act for someone Monday.

Current Mayor John Birkner Jr., who has attended every 9/11 ceremony in Westwood, said Kelley has brought the community together each year to remember those lost and make the borough stronger.

"What's wonderful is there's no fanfare. It's a tribute," Birkner said. "It's really just a vigil and solemn remembrance. That's the way it should be."

Click to see a video of the Westwood remembrance.

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