Seventeen years after one of the darkest days in U.S. history, residents in East Rockaway and Lynbrook gathered for the villages’ respective 9/11 memorial services on Tuesday.
East Rockaway held its event at Memorial Park to remember the many lives lost in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Dozens of residents were in attendance along with elected officials, firefighters and veterans.
Mayor Bruno Romano addressed those gathered at the service and discussed the horrific events of that day, noting that America is still healing 17 years later.
“No matter your religion, your background or political view, September 11 was the closest thing to hell that many of us have ever seen,” Romano said. “It puts into perspective what our brave men and women in uniform —military and first responders — experience every day.”
Romano also lauded Eagle Scout candidate Antony Doall, who improved the village’s tribute to the victims of the attacks in Memorial Park by planting saplings from a survivor tree, which was the only living tree found at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Doall spoke at the ceremony along with East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School student Emily McLaughlin, who was born more than two years after the attacks and urged parents to teach their children about that dark day.
“Parents of children born after 9/11, I strongly encourage you to talk to them about it, in the most appropriate way you feel,” McLaughlin said. “Because the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow, the future of this country relies on us and the path that adults today pave.”
At the ceremony, eighth-grader Brian Peknic played the “Bagpipe March” and “Amazing Grace,” and the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts presented the colors along with members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and East Rockaway Fire Department. In addition, Trustee Rich Bilello led the Pledge of Allegiance, Peter Rapanaro performed the National Anthem and later “Let There be Peace on Earth,” Trustee Steve Fried read the names of those from the village who died in the attacks, Pastor Mark Lukens of Bethany Congregational Church delivered the Invocation and Father Charles Romano of St. Raymond’s Church and Pastor Sharon Hurkens of the Church of the Nazarene led the closing prayer.
The service began with comments from Deputy Mayor Theresa Gaffney, who was at the World Trade Center on the day of the attacks. “Life would have been very different for us if I did not make it out of those towers,” she said. “I look at my three children and understand why I was spared. Only time will tell what they will become and what differences they will make in this world.”
Dozens of residents also attended the Lynbrook ceremony in Memorial Garden behind Village Hall, along with elected officials, firefighters and police officers. Lynbrook Fire Department Chief William Abrams and Lynbrook Police Chief Joseph Neve led the Pledge of Allegiance and Annalisa Emmet sang the National Anthem and later gave her rendition of “God Bless America.”
Father Richard Stelter of Our Lady of Peace and Rev. Rob Walderman of the Lynbrook Baptist Church delivered the Invocation. Deputy Mayor Hilary Becker and Trustees Michael Hawxhurst, Ann Marie Reardon and Robert Boccio read the names of the Lynbrook residents who died in the attacks, which was followed by the sounding of the bells and taps and a moment of silence.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Mac na hÉireann Pipes and Drums performed “Amazing Grace,” and Rabbi Sandra Bellush of Temple Am Echad delivered the closing prayer. The ceremony concluded with remarks from Mayor Alan Beach, who talked about the swelling of patriotism in the aftermath of that day and urged those in attendance to remember the fallen.
“Today we honor 2,977 innocent people that died in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil,” Beach said. “Twenty of those were your loved ones. Our Lynbrook residents. Each of you can remember the smallest act of kindness; the smiling face and the loving heart lost that day. He or she lives on in your heart and soul. May God bless those who lost loved ones on 9/11 every single year on this day and every day.”