Whitfords honor those who perished Sept. 11, 2001

Family vows to never forget the sacrifices their son and others made
September 12, 2023

Story Location:
17181 Minos Conaway Road
Lewes, DE 19958
United States

Roger and Carol Whitford have made it their mission to ensure that not only is their son Mark remembered, but also that all those who perished on or as a result of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001 are honored.

Each year, the family arranges and sets up a special ceremony centered around a memorial they erected in their front yard to honor Mark’s memory. Cultivating a family atmosphere, the Whitfords encourage others who have lost loved ones or who suffer from complications related to Sept. 11 to join them in their tribute. New York Fire Department’s Joe DiMartino took time to acknowledge their efforts at this year’s ceremony.

“I am very happy the Whitfords made a vow to never forget what happened. I made a vow to myself to never forget what happened, and you are here because you made a vow to yourself to never forget,” DiMartino said.

He said he believes acts of heroism should never be forgotten.

“What they did, those selfless acts, should stand as a monument, and young children today should emulate those people. They should be our heroes,” DiMartino said.

DiMartino was in the North Tower when it collapsed and is grateful he survived.

Nancy Seddio, a doctor when the attacks happened, acknowledged the heroism of those who lost their lives Sept. 11, but wanted to remind the crowd of those who helped in the cleanup. She said people were told the air was clean, so they went to help in any way they could. Seddio said the air was not clean and, to this day, she knows people with respiratory problems and unique cancers she believes are tied to being at Ground Zero. She said there are others struggling to move forward mentally as well.

“As a psychotherapist and a mental health specialist, post-traumatic stress disorder is something that has to be taken seriously because it affects every aspect of your life,” Seddio said.

Coming out in public Sept. 11 for the first time since the attacks, Vinny Verdisco opened the ceremonies with the national anthem and would later sing a song he wrote called “When I Close My Eyes.” Verdisco had just finished an overnight shift the morning of the attacks. His wife said she woke him up after about an hour and told him he was needed.

“They didn’t want anybody in Manhattan. Luckily, I had an emergency vehicle and I got in and started getting people. St. Vincent asked me if they could use our transit lots as triage and I said, ‘yeah,’ and emptied a lot out to help set it up,” Verdisco said.

Verdisco said he is suffering from a number of health issues related to his proximity to Ground Zero during the cleanup and rescue efforts.

An addition to the 2023 ceremonies was a big red box containing the names of the 2,977 people who lost their lives Sept. 11, 2001. A simple internet search can link someone to several web pages on the person they selected. The Whitfords hope people learn more about them and pass the story on to others. The Whitfords vow they will never forget their son, his colleagues and the thousands of others who lost their lives that day and in the 22 years since.

More information about the memorial can be found at Donations can be made to the Mark P. Whitford Scholarship Fund, which is given to one wrestler from Tottenville High School (N.Y.) and to one student from the Cape Henlopen High School each year. The Whitfords encourage the public to visit the memorial, which they say is a safe place for those wanting to pay tribute to the fallen. It is located at 17181 Minos Conaway Road, Lewes.


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