ORANGE, NJ — Marking 19 years since approximately 3,000 people died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Stonycreek, Pa., the Orange community came together at Orange High School’s Bell Stadium for a Sept. 11 Remembrance Walk/Run Fundraiser.
“Today, we are doing a Remembrance Walk/Run for victims of Sept. 11,” Orange High School Assistant Principal Anthony Frantantoni said at this year’s event on Sept. 11. “We’re looking to do 2,977 steps to account for all the victims that we lost on that day.”
In addition to uniting the community, the event sought to raise money to donate to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which supports those who were first responders on that day; donations can be made via Venmo to @Fearlessleader67.
“We’re just trying to get the word out to everyone in the community just to continue to remember 9/11,” Frantantoni said. “Right now, as an administrator in the high school, we’re working with a generation of kids that weren’t even born at this time. Even though it’s been 19 years, there are still people that are affected by that date and those events. People are still dealing with illnesses, injuries and loss, and we’re looking to make our contribution to those families of first responders and those fallen on that day.”
For Frantantoni, memories of that day are still fraught with grief but also hopeful.
“It’s a day that, even in tragedy, it brought us together in unity as a country,” Frantantoni said. “It’s a day where, no matter your political beliefs, religious beliefs or anything, I think it’s a day for all Americans to come together in remembrance of the lives that we’ve lost and be thankful for the freedoms that we have.”
Also taking to the field was OHS Principal Jason Belton.
“We’ve decided to do a walk for the first responders during the attacks on 9/11,” Belton said on Sept. 11. “What we knew was that 2,977 people lost their lives and, of the 2,977, 400-plus were first responders who were running into the situation. Even outside of that, 19 years later, we’re still reading articles and there’s information where first responders, who thought that they were going into a situation and helping, have walked out and now have these medical problems, respiratory problems, some of them have cancer, so many different problems.
“Even though it’s a few of us out here, we still were able to pull together between $400 and $500,” Belton said. “When I walked in, I think we were at about $420. So, we’re planning to donate all of that. Next month, we’d like to plan another activity.”
As Principal, Belton knew it was his responsibility to educate his students about the role first responders play in the community.
“As the principal of the school, I need to make sure that I’m doing a better job of bridging the gap with my students and first responders,” Belton said. “There’s a disconnect between my students and the fire department, my students and the police department, my students and the ambulance driver. So, if they begin to understand that these are great jobs to have, then it has to start somewhere, and I think seeing these folks as heroes and the things they do day-to-day, I think that might change the way my students see and deal with first responders.”
Orange High School culinary arts teacher Christopher Torres participated to give back.
“A lot of people lost their lives,” Torres said at the event. “Even going through the COVID right now, a lot of people are losing their lives. So, we’re just trying to find different ways that we can give back and help the community.”
Superintendent Gerald Fitzhugh II urged the community to stay together.
“The most important piece is that 9/11 signifies the time where we came together as a country,” Fitzhugh said at the event. “We have to always remember. About Orange, we’re such a small-knit community, and it’s so critical that we continue to just hold each other, embrace each other and particularly now, even more, throughout these pandemic times.”
Photos Courtesy of Kerry E. Porter