Senate President Stephen Sweeney
Deputy Speaker John Burzichelli
Assemblyman Adam Taliaferro

NJ.com – Gloucester County held its annual Patriot Day Ceremony on Wednesday to remember those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks, including three county residents.

The annual Patriot Day Ceremony supports the families of Gloucester County residents John Rodak, Nicholas W. Brandemarti and Perry Thompson who all lost their lives 18 years ago.

“We are grateful to you for sharing so much of your time to be here and sharing your memories of your lost loved ones with us,” said Freeholder Director Robert Damminger. “You continue to use the spirit of John and Nick to help make our community a better place and you inspire us with your strength and your love.”

The ceremony was held at the 9/11 Memorial at the Place of Reflection at Chestnut Branch Park in Mantua.

Along with space for reflection, the park includes an I-beam from the World Trade Center and six flag poles to represent the branches of service along with a flag pole donated by the Rodak and Brandmarti families.

In 2015, a memorial was constructed to honor the 180 people who lost their lives at the Pentagon. which includes a block of limestone collected from the site.

The newest edition, a large empty grass space, was created in 2016 is a memorial to represent those who were lost on Flight 93 which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as passengers stormed the cockpit after the aircraft was hijacked.

Beside the I-beam, a bell was created which is only rung once each year, during the ceremony, to mark the times of each tragic event.

First bell: 8:46 a.m. when flight 11 crashed at roughly 490 mph into the North face of the North Tower of the World Trade Center between floors 93 and 99. This bell was rung by the Rodak family.

Second bell: 9:03 a.m. when flight 75 crashed at 590 mph into the South face of the South tower of the World Trade Center between floors 78 and 85. This bell was rung by the Brandemarti family.

Third bell: 9:37 a.m. when flight 77 crashed into the western side of the Pentagon and started a fire. This bell was rung by Mantua Township Police Officer Salvatore Oldrati, Gloucester County EMT Shane Clobes and Mantua Township Firefighter Dennis Marchei.

Fourth bell: 10:03 a.m. when flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Somerset County PA. This bell was run by Duane Sarmiento, director of Veteran Affairs.

State Senate President Steve Sweeney was also in attendance and spoke about his memory of September 11, 2001. Also present were students from J. Mason Tomlin School.

“I am thrilled to have so many young people here to remember what happened in this country on September Eleventh,” said Sweeney. “These young people weren’t even alive, they weren’t even born when this happened,”

Sweeney spoke about a bill introduced into the State Senate years go which would require each public school to have a moment of silence at 10 a.m. on Sept. 11 to remember the lives lost on that day.

“It’s right, it’s important, and we have to ensure that when time goes on and the young people in the audience get old, that we don’t forget what happened,” said Sweeney.

Wreaths were placed on memorials for Rodak, Brandemarti and Thompson, and families were seen embracing and crying together after the ceremony.

“That day, even with all that turmoil, was one of the days I could reflect on where we were all in it together,” said Sweeney. “Everyone came together, there was no fighting, everyone came together to ask “What can we do?”

District Offices

Gloucester County

Kingsway Commons
935 Kings Highway, Suite 400
West Deptford, NJ 08086
Phone: (856) 251-9801
Fax: (856) 251-9752


Salem/Cumberland Counties

The Finlaw Building
199 East Broadway, Suite G
Salem, NJ 08079
Phone: (856) 339-0808 or
             (856) 455-1011
Fax: (856) 339-9626