9/11 in Remembrance

A Thousand Points of Light Shine Across the Jersey Shore

A Thousand Points of Light Shine Across the Jersey Shore
New Jersey REALTOR® Steve Moran tells his story of lighting the skies above Long Beach Island with glowsticks and hope.

Volunteer Alan Ollivier holds Old Glory high on a Ship Bottom beach during the singing of God Bless America during the memorial illumination service held last year on Long Beach Island, N.J.

Courtesy of The Press of Atlantic City. Photo by Ed Lea.

      Like most Americans, my initial feelings of anger and sorrow from the 9/11 terrorist attacks soon turned into bitter frustration. The events of that day left me profoundly changed and instilled within me a longing to do something that would help and show my support and compassion for those who had suffered so dearly.

Working on Long Beach Island, N.J., a Jersey shore resort close to New York City, I didn't have to watch the TV coverage of the tragedies and rescue efforts. Colleagues, clients and friends were at Ground Zero assisting in the relief efforts, searching for survivors, and recovering fallen comrades.

I received first-hand accounts of tragedies and "near misses" every time I went to the office, picked up the phone or checked my email. A co-worker at my agency almost lost her son-in-law. My summer tenants' sister would never visit them on Long Beach Island again. Her remains were never recovered from Ground Zero.

Then, I found both inspiration and a means to get involved through my close friend Maggie O'Neill. Maggie, a fellow REALTOR®, asked me to help her organize a sunset memorial she had named "One Candle, One Dollar, One Thousand Points of Light." The goal would be to illuminate LBI's beaches with glowsticks and to collect donations for the American Red Cross's relief and rescue efforts.

Our initial concern was that it would take about 15,000 people to light the entire 18 miles of beach. Since we needed time to organize, we chose Saturday, Sept. 29, as the date. It coincided with the LBI Chowderfest, an annual event that attracts about 10,000 weekend visitors.

Maggie and I knew this would be a large undertaking, but the hard work and long hours would be worth the effort.

The first thing we did was launch an all-out media blitz and coordinate with local government officials. We also began collecting glowsticks and memorial cards from generous donors. Volunteers came forward to serve as beach captains, including several local real estate agents. REALTORS® Steven and Pat Sepanak, along with my broker, Randy Sinor, donated T-shirts for the beach captains and moderators hosting the memorial at designated handicapped beaches.

By dusk on Sept. 29, we somehow managed to get everything and everybody in place for the memorial.

The sunset service began with a moving speech written by Maggie and read at each beach. "We shed tears of pain and of determination. We will move forward, but we will not forget. Ever. We will raise our lights and preserve our freedom, our diversity and our pride" were the words that moved many to tears as they resounded above the crashing surf. Then, after a moment of silence and singing "God Bless America," everyone lit their lights and spread out.

As you would expect, there were some very sad, yet incredibly poignant moments that occurred during the evening. One particular moment stands out for me. A local man, whose family owned a vacation home two blocks away, had been killed in the World Trade Center. As I watched generations of his family and friends walk towards me, I felt like I would explode emotionally. Yes, this big boy did cry.

I knew every person there had his or her own stories and emotions to share. The moderators and captains comforted one another with "beach" stories as they dropped off their donations. Maggie spread out her crowd and kept them singing, as a police vehicle drove the Ship Bottom surf line flying the American flag. From a moderator on Barnegat Light came the story of a bagpiper playing solemnly on a dune by the lighthouse, as if a beacon for the lost souls of Sept. 11.

I learned that the moderators in Beach Haven had constructed a flag made out of painted seashells on one beach, while at another a woman said she had driven three hours from Pennsylvania, so her son could be there with his summer friends.

By the end of the night, an estimated 6,000 people had participated and we had collected nearly $12,000. Though humbled, I am thankful I was able to help assist those who endured such tragedy.

Maggie and I are now preparing for this year's "Remember September" service to be held on Sept. 14. If you would like information on it, please visit my Web site for additional details.

I would like to say a special thank you to the fellow REALTORS® who were so instrumental in making the memorial happen: Alex Contino, Samuel "Bud" Dixon, Fred Duffy, Dawn Evans, Sarah Miller-Lyons, Kathy Ries, Steven and Pat Sepanak, Rebecca "Becky" Tarditi and Jean Tharp.

Steve Moran is a REALTOR® with CENTURY 21 Mary Allen Realty, Inc. in Ship Bottom, N.J.

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