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Echoes of 9/11 in Highland

September 19, 2012

The events of September 11, 2001 echoed in the Town of Highland Town Hall in two disparate ways at its September meeting, which this year fell on that date’s exact 11th anniversary. On a positive note was a discussion of the Heroes Park, a public space centered around a mounted fragment of the World Trade Center dedicated to all veterans and public safety providers. A more dubious legacy was some controversy regarding the maintenance and upgrading of emergency communications equipment around the county, generated by a national Homeland Security Department that may not be sufficiently sensitive to real local needs.

Supervisor Andy Boyar, during his report, brought up the Heroes Park, saying it is time that management of the park be turned over from the 9/11 memorial committee to the town. He announced that volunteers are invited to participate in placing 137 memory bricks in the brickwork of the park on Saturday, September 22. The committee has funds left over after the sales of the memory bricks, and Boyar proposed that those funds be turned over to the new town group set up to maintain the park in perpetuity, to finance upkeep.

Boyar also proposed that something like the impromptu ceremony that had been held that morning be institutionalized, expanded and better publicized in future years. At the ceremony, town clerk Doreen Hanson had rung the town bell at 8:46 a.m., the time that the first plane flew into the first tower, and the times of other key events on 9/11. Other people assembled at the park, including members of the VFW and emergency personnel, and refreshments were made available.

The consequences of 9/11 were also evident in a more contentious matter raised by Yulan Fire Department member Bill Hofaker, however. Hofaker is the liaison between the fire department and the Sullivan County Legislature’s Safety Committee, which is overseeing a much-needed upgrade of the emergency communications systems in the county. Reporting on a meeting of that committee , Hofaker noted that although his fire department strongly supports the upgrade, it is opposed to a proposal to change radio equipment from low-frequency to high-frequency. Apparently, the original rationale for this dates from the days after 9/11, when some complained that police and EMS personnel could not communicate directly with fire personnel because of the difference in frequency ranges.