Everyone here is more aware of the fragility of life since Sept. 11. We know more than a lot of other communities just how precious what we have is. We have a great community spirit."
On Sunday, the members of the Essex County Emerald Society, dressed in their green tartan kilts and spit-shined badges, played "Taps" Sunday at a small memorial overlooking Raritan Bay.
The band, made up of police officers and firefighters, has played at dozens of Sept. 11 memorials throughout New York and New Jersey, but ceremonies held here, they say, even six years since the 2001 attacks, are different -- somehow, more moving.
Sunday's ceremony, attended by some 100 people, took place at a memorial built by the local Elks chapter at Leonardo State Marina. The site was selected for its views of lower Manhattan and Port Monmouth, where reportedly one can see ships being loaded with munitions bound for Iraq.
"As a community it received a bigger hit," Ed McNany, president of the Essex County Emerald Society, said following the ceremony. "Each town has its own emotional connection with 9/11 but you really feel that connection here. They lost 37 people and they feel a bigger impact."
Like many New York suburbs, Middletown has both blue-collar and white-collar communities. On the town's two memorials the names of Cantor Fitzgerald traders are engraved alongside the name of a Port Authority police officer.
The town's wealthy and less wealthy members congregate too in Middletown's many churches and in the Elks lodge. Both institutions were central in helping victims' families in the aftermath of the attacks, and both have remained central to commemorating the anniversary annually.
"Little has changed since 2001," said Ken Massicotte, a lawyer and former Elks exalted ruler. "We're still fighting the same enemy and we still need to remember our murdered citizens. We cannot forget they were murdered."
Another Elk, Randy Smith, also a former exalted ruler and the town's supervisor of public works, said it was difficult for residents not to be reminded of the events of Sept. 11 and also important that members of the town not forget what happened.
"A lot of people were killed. Every day still you hook up with someone who tells you their story about who they knew that was killed…it is important that our kids remember what happened," he said.