More than 200 Rockville Centre residents gathered at the Village Green on Sunday evening in a somber commemoration of the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and to remember the way the village came together in support for the families of the lost.
The candlelight vigil featured speeches by local officials, first responders and victims’ family members and blessings by local clergy. Attendees held memorial candles as the ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance, and solemn religious chants were played at low volume throughout the service.
Mayor Francis Murray praised the village for its response both during the attacks and in the difficult days after them. “We recognize that no community suffered more than Rockville Centre on that tragic, deplorable day,” Murray said. “And yet no community responded with more good will and with more generosity for their neighbors than our village. We will never fully recover, but I hope and pray that time has changed the anger and pain in our hearts to a feeling of peace.”
After Monsignor William Koenig’s invocation, State Sen. Dean Skelos spoke briefly. “I think at this time we should also reflect upon how precious life is,” Skelos said. “Rockville Centre will never forget. We’re blessed to live in this wonderful village and we’re blessed to live in this wonderful country.”
Resident Rob Sherry spoke emotionally about his younger brother, John, who was working on Wall Street on Sept. 11. Sherry thanked his parents for bringing their family to a “loving and caring community.”
“I also want you to know that while our community was hit hard with so many losses that day, I have a heavy heart for so many parents that have lost a child in so many other ways,” Sherry said, listing a few from the village.
Russ Siller, whose brother, FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, died working as a first responder on 9/11 after running through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, said that the village went above and beyond. “Not every village does what Rockville Centre has done,” Siller said. “From day one, they’ve gone way out of their way. They’re just constant in their concern for us.”
Parks and Recreation Superintendent Anthony Brunetta said that the name of another Rockville Centre victim, Stephen Gerrard Hoffman, had been added to memorial.
Rabbi Howard Diamond, spiritual leader of the congregation of B’nai Sholom-Beth David, offered the ceremony’s closing prayer, and Brunetta assured the gathering that the vigil would be continued for years to come.