By Felix Alarcon The Jersey Journal
Dozens of families who lost loved one[s] in the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001 showed up today for a memorial service at the Empty Sky 9/11 memorial in Liberty State Park in Jersey City. All they found was an empty park.The New Jersey 9/11 Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit group that formed to help raise money to get the memorial built, said this afternoon it canceled the event for number of reasons, including a lack of interest.
In a response to people at the memorial that were angry they weren’t notified of the cancellation, an unnamed official posted on the group’s Facebook page that “It is very difficult for us to get in touch with the family members when the state is not directly involved.”
Reached by phone, an official with the group who wasn’t authorized to speak for the group, said part of the reason for the cancellation is that Gov. Chris Christie wasn’t going to attend and musicians scheduled to perform also backed out.
“It was a disgrace that we couldn’t get speakers and politicians to come forward,” the official said.
Some families, clutching postcard invitations to the event, waited more than an hour at the park before one person there finally received confirmation that it was off.
“Many family members are here waiting and nothing is happening,” Loren Asciak posted on the group’s Facebook page. “This is very disappointing.”
Empty Sky is the official state memorial that was dedicated in 2011, for the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
“I feel I’ll never have closure, but I’m glad people are aware of it and are coming out,” said Shelly Kane from Englewood, who was at least buoyed by the number of other families that turned out today. Kane lost her son, Howard Lee Kane, 40, when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers.
Michael Raymundo, of Bayonne, broke the news to the few families that remained past 2 p.m.
“I kept calling the number on the postcard and no one picked up,” said Raymundo, whose wife’s two cousins died at the Twin Towers. “Then I got a call back from that number and they said there was Sandy damage and lack of support from the government. … It’s bad that they cancelled this. Every year we do this.”
Cheryl Charette, of Millburn, whose husband, Mark, 38, died at the World Trade Center, was the first to arrive for the event.
“I think it’s a beautiful memorial,” she said before learning that the tribute would not be held. “This is the memorial of New Jersey and it’s disappointing that no one is here.”
Elaine Asciak and her daughter, Loren, were especially disappointed because they’re not able to attend the 9/11 memorial in Manhattan Wednesday. Elaine’s husband, Michael, 44, died in the WTC attacks.
“The first year I couldn’t stop crying,” Elaine said. “But it gets easier.”
Tom and JoAnn Meehan, of Toms River, who recently returned from Guantanamo Bay as one of the families selected to attend hearings of the five detainees charged with the 9/11 attacks, sat in lawn chairs, waiting patiently for the ceremony. Their daughter, Colleen Ann Barkow, 26, died in the WTC attacks.
“We miss her deeply every year,” Tom Meehan said. “This is disappointing that no government officials showed up.”