Township 9-11 Memorial Dedication Renews Memories, Calls For Peace

9-11 Memorial Dedication14

Former township resident Hopeton Richards kneels before the plaque in memory of his late wife, Vanesha, who was killed in the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Hopeton Richards knelt down before the plaque mounted on a boulder and said a few words to the teenaged girl standing next to  him before photographing the plaque with his cell phone.

Richards, a former township resident who now lives about 90 minutes away in Berlin, was one of about 30 people who gathered near the library Sept. 29 for the dedication of the township’s memorial to the six residents killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The reason Richards made the hour-and-a-half-long trip was pictured on that plaque; his wife, Vanesha, was an administrative assistant at Marsh & McLennan on that day and was killed in the attacks on the Twin Towers.

The picture show a smiling Vanesha holding then-11-month-old Kayla, the couple’s daughter.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Richards said, as he stared down at the memorial to his wife. “The life that she lived is forever etched in my heart, my memories.”

Richards said he hasn’t taken part in any of the 9-11 commemorations over the last 14 years “because it’s too much to deal with.”

But this one was special, he said.

“People made an effort to put this together,” he said. “So I made the effort to be here to show my support.”

The memorial consists a a squared-off area lined with brick pavers, upon which are placed boulders. On the boulders are the plaques honoring the six township resident killed in the attacks – John Collins, Ganesh Ladkat, Stephen Joseph, Jeffrey Robinson, Sheryl Rosenbaum and Richards – as well as a plaque describing the memorial.

The centerpiece of the memorial is a piece of a steel beam from the World Trade Center that was given to the township by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The beam, Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad said, “is the closest thing to where our people perished, so, in that sense, it is a homecoming.”

The memorial also contains a flag that was flown over the Twin Tower site during the after math of the attack, Prasad said.

During the short ceremony, Richards and the others in attendance heard comments from Prasad (D-At Large)  – who, along with township Republican Chairman Bob LaCorte, spearheaded the campaign for the memorial – Somerset County Freeholder Brian Levine, state Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17), Mayor Chris Kelly ( R), the Rev. Sharon Culley of Somerset Presbyterian Church and Moulana Syed Rizwan Rizvi, Imam at Masjid-e-Ali mosque, ho delivered the benediction.

The invication was given by the Rev. Douglas Haefner from St. Matthias Roman Catholic Church.

The memorial, Prasad said, was meant to honor “those who were lost in the attacks, as well as those who were injured and those who rose to their aid.”

Speaking of those who came to the aid of the injured, Danielsen – himself a longtime volunteer fire fighter – reminded the audience that for the first responders who answered the call that day, “the battle is not over.”

Many of those fire fighters, police officers and EMTs are suffering adverse health affects from the dust and other particles floating in the air weeks after the towers fell, Danielsen said.

“As fire fighters, we understand that one day’s emergency can follow us for years,” he said.

Levine told the crowd that the memorial to him “is dedicated to all the people who were in the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon or in a plane that landed in a field in Pennsylvania.”

“We can mourn, but we can never forget,” Levine said.

Rev. Culley spoke of the time she and her husband ministered to workers at Grouds Zero.

“It was a time of coming together, when hell went to heaven,” she said.

“There needs to be peace in this world,” she said. “There needs to be the coming together of faiths, as we all stand up here.”

Rizvi, who gave the benediction, said that “terror sees no borders.”

“A terrorist belongs to no religion, no creed, no ethnic background,” he said. “A wrong is a wrong, no matter who does it. A right is a right, no matter were it comes from.”

“No matter how many times you think about it, you never come to terms with it,” Hopeton Richards said after the ceremony. “Good memories of her and us together is what kept me going. I enjoy sharing with my daughter and keeping her memory alive.”

Kayla Richards, who will turn 15 in a few weeks, said seeing her mother’s picture made her happy.

“It feels good to see her picture, and to see me in the picture,” she said.

Hopeton Richards said he doesn’t come to Franklin too often anymore, but, he said, when he does, he knows the memorial will be on his list of stops.


Contributors of material for or help in planning and constructing the memorial include Trap Rock Industries, Blue Ribbon Awards, Carl Hauck, the manager of the township public works department, and the DPW staff. Prasad also thanks Township Manager Robert Vornlocker for his help in the memorial’s planning.

Franklin Township 9-11 Memorial



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