Despite the time and 22 years that have passed since the Sept. 11 attacks, that claimed the lives on nearly 3,000 people, the Bellmore-Merrick community still mourns — and vows to never forget.
Two separate ceremonies take place annually — in Bellmore, with the Bellmore and North Bellmore Fire Departments, and in Merrick, with the Merrick and North Merrick Fire Departments.
At the Bellmore ceremony in front of the Bellmore Fire Department’s headquarters on Pettit Avenue, the department remembered its two volunteers and New York City firefighters Kevin Prior and Adam Rand, who died while performing rescue operations on the day of the attacks. In 2008, the department also lost volunteer firefighter Sean McCarthy, who responded to ground zero, and succumbed to a 9/11-related cancer.
Following the playing of the National Anthem, and a few speeches, three wreathes in their names were walked out to the department’s Sept. 11 memorial by members.
In Merrick, the ceremony is perhaps best known for the massive American Flag, that is hung parallel to Sunrise Highway, often grabbing the attention of many passerby, who honk in support of the department.
The Merrick memorial is at the corner of Sunrise and Merrick Avenue, alongside a steel girder from one of the tower’s. A portion of Merrick Avenue was closed, so ceremony attendees could gather in the street for the service.
Each year, wreathes are laid for ex-chief Ronnie Gies, and ex-captain Bryan Sweeney, who gave their lives that day. Gies’s three sons are all members of the department.