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Jackowski, 9/11 fading from public memory?
Vista 911 Memorial

The 9/11 memorial at the Vista Fire Department features steel from the remains of the World Trade Center towers and sits unfinished nearly two years after it was first unveiled. Only a few thousand dollars worth of finishing touches are left to be completed, though the fire department has been unable to garner enough support from the community to finish it. (Ken McGahren)

This year marks the 31st anniversary of the 1983 terrorist bombings in Beirut, which took the life of Lewisboro resident Cpl. James Jackowski, and 13 years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, yet neither will receive recognition this year by local fire departments or the town on Sept. 11 (as has been done in years past), prompting some to ask — have we forgotten?

“We have no plans to have any kind of services this year and one of the reasons why is the fact that attendance numbers have been so low,” said Vista Fire District Commissioner Adam Ochs.

The South Salem Fire Department also confirmed that it will have no official observance beyond a small recognition and moment of silence, and Katonah and Goldens Bridge fire departments did not return requests for comment.

While installed in 2012, the Lewisboro September 11th and Cpl. Jackowski memorial remains unfinished at the Vista firehouse, with lighting, seating and signs still to be funded and constructed, Mr. Ochs said.

The cost to finish the memorial is estimated by Mr. Ochs and the memorial’s architect, Ken McGahren, at less than $5,000.

The total cost of the finished memorial is estimated at approximately $20,000, of which the Vista Fire Department has donated more than $10,000.

Over the last few years Mr. Ochs said it has been difficult to raise funds to complete the site — a shame, he said, when considering how fast the community was able to gather nearly $500,000 in a little more than a year for the incoming tennis courts at John Jay High School.

“Time kind of makes things go away,” he said.

Mr. Ochs is not alone in his sentiment of a local and national fading memory of the sacrifices and losses of the past.

The Jackowski family, while proud and honored by their son’s memorial, recognize that as decades begin to bridge the events of the past and future, new generations become responsible for maintaining the memory of veterans and those lost to acts of terrorism.

Jackowski Memorial

James Jackowski was a South Salem resident, John Jay High School graduate and Corporal in the Untied States Marine Corps. He died at the age of 20 during the 1983 terrorist bombing of the Beirut barracks in Lebanon. 241 American military personnel died in the attack and Cpl. Jackowski is honored today by the memorial at the Vista Fire Department as well as a $500 scholarship given to John Jay students in his name.

This is the 31st year, and they are struggling to keep the momentum going, even in Jacksonville, N.C.,” John Jackowski, Cpl. Jackowski’s father, told The Ledger. “We go every year. They have services down there at the Marine Corps. The families are totally committed and the veterans of the devil dogs are really involved down there, but everybody is getting older and until the next generation gets involved it is going to be tough.”

For more information on Vista’s memorial, visit vistafd.org/content/911.

Remembering through giving

For older generations the memory remains vibrant. Just a few days ago Lucian Caldara — an Ossining resident, veteran of the Korean War and a decades-long (more than 50 years) member of the Marine Corps League of Westchester County — paid tribute to the memory of Cpl. Jackowski by placing a new Marine plaque on the John Jay graduate’s memorial.

“It is a vital memory that can’t be forgotten because we are threatened every day from these outside sources of terrorism,” Mr. Caldara said. “People are more cognizant of their own social activities more so than their community, and I’m talking about the whole country. You can see it by excessive entitlement.”

Mr. Caldara said veterans are better treated today than in decades past, and along with Mr. McGahren, cites the hordes of volunteers who have given their time and professional expertise to remember and honor veterans of the past and present. He referred to the county’s Patriot Housing program, which he is a member of, which works to find housing and jobs for veterans.

“In a year we have taken 161 vets in the housing from the streets and shelters and got over 60 of them jobs,” he said.

Mr. McGahren drew attention to Panella Landscaping, Jan Johannessen of Kellard Sessions, Jim Hackett, Mark Strickrodt of D & M Construction, Benedek & Ticehurst Landscape Architects, the Lewisboro Garden Center, Brewster Iron Works, and electrician Tony Ryan, who in concert with a host of volunteers went above and beyond to donate time and resources to bring the memorial to its current state, he said.

Mr. Caldara said that citizens should take more personal responsibility for helping and honoring veterans, rather than leaving it to the government.

“It is up to individuals to take a personal interest in helping those who seek help. We can’t keep pointing someone else to be responsible,” Mr. Caldara said. “That is what I meant by entitlements; everyone says the government should do this and the government should do that — I think it is up to the individuals to take a piece of the action.”  

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