“This will be a place of solemn reflection, respectful remembrance and heartfelt tribute,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino told the crowd that gathered at Town Park at Point Lookout on Feb. 24.
“We will never forget the heroes who were killed on Sept. 11 or those who have died as a result of 9/11-related illnesses. This is their monument.”
Families of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks joined Santino and Town Council members Dorothy Goosby, Erin King Sweeney and Anthony D’Esposito for a groundbreaking ceremony for the town’s permanent 9/11 monument on the beach — where hundreds of neighbors gathered on Sept. 11, 2001, to look to the west in shock.
Each year, the town hosts thousands of people in Point Lookout at one of Long Island’s largest 9/11 remembrance ceremonies.
The 42,000-square-foot monument — budgeted at $1.3 million and scheduled to be completed by Aug. 15 — is being built by the Woodstock Construction group and Cashin Associates.
The names of the civilians and first responders who died in the attacks, or from illnesses related to the cleanup at ground zero, will be etched in granite. The monument’s backdrop will be the New York City skyline.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Kerri Kiefer-Viverito said. “Having a permanent monument here would mean so much to me.” Kiefer-Viverito, who lost her brother, Michael Kiefer — an FDNY firefighter and Long Beach lifeguard — in the attacks, addressed the crowd in front of a 10-foot-wide rendering of the monument.
“Last year in particular, I decided to follow in my brother’s footsteps and complete the Town of Hempstead triathlon at this very beach,” she said, noting one of the many ways she and her family keep Michael’s memory alive.
Michael, who frequently took part in the triathlon, competed for the last time just two days before he died. It was the last time his family saw him.
Each year in Long Beach, a boardwalk run is held in his memory.
“Not only will it have Michael’s name listed with all who perished that day, but it will be on the very beach where he swam, biked and ran just two days before 9/11,” his sister said of the monument. “Every year when I participate in the Town of Hempstead triathlon, I will be able to bike and run past this monument, where his name will be etched in stone forever.”
The monument will feature a “meditation plaza” that will showcase Walt Whitman’s poem “On the Beach at Night,” a large steel beam recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center’s twin towers and American, Town of Hempstead and POW/MIA flags.
“I think this is a beautiful remembrance,” said Hope Walsh, who lost her husband, Jerry, an FDNY firefighter, on Veterans Day in 2014.
“He went in that day of 9/11 and stayed in there for months, digging and digging, and he developed blood cancer,” added Walsh, who was accompanied at the groundbreaking by her two daughters, Christine and Katelynn.
“The despair and anguish of Sept. 11 elicited profound unity and mutual support from all of those who were affected by the terrorist attacks,” King Sweeney said. “This monument will stand as an emblem of that unity and support.”
A “directional plaque” will also be displayed on the monument, pointing toward where the towers stood.
“Sept. 11 was the saddest moment in our nation’s history,” Santino said. “This monument will salute the heroes who were killed on that day, honor their memory and help all of us to reflect upon the positive legacy of love and hope that they have left to all Americans.”