Dutchess County honors 9/11 first responders, calls on Americans to stand united again
Local and federal officials gathered in downtown Poughkeepsie Monday, using the somber moment to call for the same kind of unity Americans showed in the months following the Sept. 11th attacks.
Dutchess County Family Court Judge Tracy MacKenzie said there are a few reasons she organizes this ceremony each year outside her office on Market Street. One is to pay tribute to her late uncle, NYPD Detective Terrence Mulvey, and the thousands of others who died of illnesses caused by pollutants at ground zero.
Mulvey, known to Judge MacKenzie as Uncle T, died in Dec. 2021 after a long battle with a 9/11-related cancer.
Another reason for organizing the event, she said, is to steer people back to unity and service, and away from the polarization and politics currently dividing the nation.
"If we can reflect back on how wonderful we were to each other as human beings, after 9/11, if we could try to go back to that," she said.
Rep. Pat Ryan, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, recalled how many people volunteered to serve in the military in the months following 9/11. That energy has since dissipated.
"All of our military services are 20 to 25 percent below their recruitment goals," Ryan said. "We have to figure out how to rekindle that spirit of service across the country."
Dutchess County Central-and-Information Services Commissioner Glenn Marchi reflected on the prevailing mood in New York City as his Army National Guard unit assisted with search and rescue operations. He remembers people overloading the First Battery Armory on 66th Street with donations, and then lining up around the block to volunteer.
Marchi wants his community to get back to that level of compassion.
"It was incredible to see that and feel that anywhere you went during that time after September 11th, 2001," Marchi said, "and [in] the years after, people were united."
One small example of the unity officials here are seeking is that Rep. Ryan, a Democrat, and Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican, are co-sponsoring legislation to make 9/11 a federal holiday.