Franklin Square residents gathered last Sunday evening at the town’s Sept. 11 Memorial at Rath Park to memorialize 25 members of the community who died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center 22 years ago.
“We are here to honor our heroes in the fire service and the community,” Joseph Gerrato, chief of the Franklin Square and Munson Fire Department, said. “As they gave their life for a cause which is bigger than oneself, their actions and examples should serve as an inspiration to us all.”
The gathering paid tribute not only to those who died that day, but also to the first responders who have succumbed to 9/11-related illnesses in the years since.
“Their spirit, devotion and legacy will never be forgotten,” said John Novello, the Fire Department’s secretary.
As rain fell, firefighters, friends and family members and loved ones placed roses on a steel remnant of the Trade Center towers in honor of each of those who died as their names were read aloud. They included firefighters, police offers and those who were working in the towers that morning. A final rose was placed to honor those who have died since 9/11 — in particular, Fire Commissioner and Honorary Chief Joseph Torregrossa.
Fire Department Deacon Doug Ferreiro described Sept. 11 as a day that started like any other. With some residents were getting their children ready for school, others were getting themselves ready for work or already at the office.
Ferreiro recounted the cascade of horrible events: At 8:46 a.m., the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center’s north tower. At 9:03 a.m., a second plane hit the south tower. At 9:37 a.m., a third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington. At 9:59 a.m., the south tower collapsed. At 10:02 a.m., a fourth plane crashed in an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. At 10:28 a.m., the north tower collapsed.
“Who would know, on such a beautiful morning, every man, woman, and child — not only in this country, but across the world — would be changed,” Ferreiro said. “These people were our neighbors. Our husbands and wives. Sons. Daughters. Aunts. Uncles. And friends.”
In 2015, a sapling from the so-called Survivor Tree, a Callery pear tree found alive at ground zero weeks after the attacks, was given to the Fire Department, and today it stands tall at the memorial.
Though the remembrance focused on those who died, Ferreiro reminded the attendees to remember the actions of the first responders and civilians who helped people out of the doomed buildings, saving thousands of lives.
He also called on the community to remember the acts of kindness and support in the aftermath of the attacks. “Let us remember how this country came together,” Ferreiro said. “We held doors for each other. We greeted each other warmly. And even strangers we did not know, we welcomed.”
“You and I are deeply connected to this tragedy,” he added. “And on this day, we have the responsibility to carry out these words, ‘We will never forget.’”