Last Friday, Borough President Eric Adams hosted an annual remembrance service at the rotunda inside Borough Hall to pay tribute to three Brooklynites who lost their lives on that day or succumbed to 9/11-related illnesses.
“It’s hard to believe that it has been 17 years since the attacks took place in our city,” Adams said. “9/11 left a mark on our families and a mark on our hearts.”
For the second consecutive year, hanging outside Borough Hall is a banner with the names of all 266 Brooklyn residents who died on September 11. The banner will will be displayed at Borough Hall throughout the entire week.
At 9:58 a.m., the ceremony paused and a moment of silence was observed to mark the collapse of the south tower at the World Trade Center. At 10:28 a.m., attendees gave another moment of silence for the fall of the north tower.
Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11, the borough president said, and it’s something everyone should always remember.
“When we take a moment each year to pause and retrospectively look at what happened, we keep their memories alive,” Adams said.
One of the first responders honored was late FDNY firefighter Thomas Phelan, who served as a ferry captain for Circle Line when tragedy struck on September 11.
Based out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Phelan, as instructed by the Fire Department, took hundreds of firefighters to the towers at Ground Zero. He helped evacuate hundreds of people from Lower Manhattan that Tuesday morning.
Phelan later became a firefighter, and was promoted to marine pilot after he joined the FDNY’s marine division.
In January, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, which family members believed was related to exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. Phelan, 45, passed away on March 13.
“It was a huge shock to us all, and we still have trouble believing it,” said Chris Phelan, who spoke at the ceremony on Friday.
Former police officer Ronald Kloepfer was also remembered at the ceremony. According to Dawn Kloepfer, his widow, he joined the NYPD in 1973 and was assigned to the 73rd Precinct in central Brooklyn. He later trained to join the elite Emergency Service Unit.
Kloepfer, 39, did not come home on the night of September 11, his widow said. He died trying to rescue people from the burning south tower.
“Ronnie was a hard-working, generous soul,” she said. “He was a family man who adored his three young children. They sit here today, all grown up, and their dad would’ve been very proud.”
Finally, Borough Hall remembered the life of late firefighter Shawn Powell, a Bedford-Stuyvesant native. At the ceremony, his sister Monique said her brother was a kind, caring and loving person who helped anybody who asked.
She recalled they had a happy childhood. Growing up, he liked to make things, she said, including a hammock that he put in the living room.
“He liked to take things apart and didn’t know how to put them back together,” she said.
Powell added that many of their family members traveled to Brooklyn to be together for the ceremony, which was meaningful to her.
“I’m happy that the world gets to know his sacrifice that he made for our country,” she said.
NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker said in the 17 years since September 11, the passage of time has helped him and his wife cope with the horrors and memories of that day.
“I truly believe our memories are gifts from those we have lost,” Tucker said. “They remind us why we cannot forget and why we will not forget those we lost. And we will not forget those we continue to lose.”