On September 11, 2017, the 16th anniversary of the infamous attack on innocent Americans, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada employees, friends and invited guests paid tribute to those who had fallen on that tragic day of September 11, 2001. The ceremony, which has been held annually since 2002, was conducted by Michael Severino (Senior Director of Marketing and Special Events) of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada and served as a reminder to all those in attendance that the events of 9/11 changed all of our lives forever and to honor those that perished, those that survived and above all that freedom can never be taken for granted. 

photos courtesy Souther Glazer's Wine & Spirits

The annual memorial ceremony began with the sound of bagpipes and drums in an impressive display as the Las Vegas Firefighters Pipes and Drums/Color Guard and the esteemed Southern Nevada Fox Company 2nd Battalion 23rd US Marine Corp Honor Guard marched past carrying our nation’s flag. This was followed by the talents of the Bishop Gorman Marching Band, who performed the “National Anthem.” Later in the program Mark Giovi honored us with his renditions of “God Bless America” and “America the Beautiful,” and invited all to sing along; and the Las Vegas Firefighters Pipes and Drums played an inspiring rendering of “Amazing Grace.” 

After the opening ceremonies, Michael read a very poignant statement from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada Senior Managing Director Larry Ruvo, which read: “Every year that passes and we take the time to join together as a company to remember 9/11, I get anxious thinking about the day and ask myself what was I thinking about 16 years ago: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Mentally—disbelief and overload to try and understand; physically—I froze and my eyes were fixated on the TV; emotionally—sympathy and concern for my friends and loved ones in New York and pride watching people come together to show our resiliency; spiritually—I started praying to God for all those who died and praying for the families, especially the children. Today Sept. 11, 2017 I have the same emotions and I thought I would ask you to do the same soul searching today and that after our ceremony that we all walk away and spend the whole day giving thanks physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually for God, our country and our families and that you really look at our remembrance wall inside the building and read the plaque more than once a year under our flagpole.”

Guest speaker Lieutenant Jack Ginty, a retired New York firefighter who on September 11, 2001 was one of the first responders at both of the Twin Towers, gave a stirring recounting of some of his experiences on that infamous day. Before the memorial began I asked Jack about his involvement in this annual event. Jack responded, “I’ve been all over the world raising funds for widows and telling the story of what happened. It’s not something I enjoy doing, but it’s one of those stories that has to be told and that’s why I do it.” Regarding his association with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, he explained, “Michael Severino is a friend of mine and he did a lot for the guys, brought families of guys who were killed out to Las Vegas. He has done so much and being here is my way to pay it forward.” Jack explained how he was present in both Towers, arriving just 10 minutes after the first plane struck the North Tower. Tragically, of his group, he was the only firefighter that survived and he did so by diving under a firetruck as the North Tower collapsed, after which he spent over an hour digging his way out from under the debris. On his survival, he surmised, “It was just pure luck. One guy went one way and I went another.”

During his speech to the attendees Jack related about appearing on the Today Show with a German reporter who claimed half of the firefighters were killed because they didn’t follow orders when they were told to leave the building. Jack related that when they were radioed that the building was coming down and to evacuate they said, “We can’t leave, we have people here.” In response to the reporter’s claim, Jack had said, “What would you have wanted them to say to the people? It’s too bad, but we have to leave?” He went on to share that after that first order to leave and the responders’ response that there were still people to save and they would not be leaving until all were rescued, no more orders to evacuate were issued. Jack also pointed out that the unsung heroes were the valiant and essential construction workers who toiled tirelessly during the cleanup to aid in the search for survivors and recovering the remains of victims. Jack told the story of one worker named Tony, who had worked nonstop for several hours cutting the iron, and after being told to take a break responded, “I’ll take a break when they take a break.” Jack concluded this recollection saying, “I didn’t do anything anyone else didn’t do. All these firemen you see here today, they would do the exact same things we did.” 

The gifted and acclaimed artist Roni Stretch also spoke, and his new painting that he graciously donated depicting a plane flying into the South Tower was unveiled. The painting showed the attack upside down, representing how the event turned the world upside down. Stretch’s painting is an example of the unique Dichromatic Process, a method he pioneered, which explores photorealistic under-paintings that emerge ghost-like from a void of color. Roni said, “On this day 16 years ago an organization of terrorists attacked thousands of unsuspecting innocent men, women and children, sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, pilots and flight attendants and those flying across the country to see friends and family. And let us not forget the policemen and firefighters, who took an oath to protect the hard working public no matter how hard or horrific the circumstances…The painting is inspired by an iconic photograph and remembers the walk of courage that firefighters took that day. What I hope to do is provide a daily reminder to appreciate our freedoms, count our blessings, try to help our fellow man and cherish our friends and families.”

The ceremony concluded with a New York deli-style lunch catered by Stage Deli of New York  and hosted by Joel and Howard Barish, for guests and team members of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada. This annual 9/11 tribute is Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada’s way to commemorate those who were affected by this tragedy, remember the blessings of our freedom and honor our country.