For 20 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, Oceanside has kept its promise to “never forget.” That was evident by the hundreds of residents who marched from Oceanside High School to the Schoolhouse Green to pay tribute to those lost that day.
OHS teachers Jason Manning and Todd Nussen planned the day in recent months, but were originally inspired by a trip to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in 2019. Manning said an image of people lined up to donate blood on the day of the attacks in 2001 motivated the pair to go all in on the 20th anniversary ceremonies. Manning and Nussen also thanked Julia Nappi, a recently retired Oceanside teacher, who helped plan the day’s events.
Manning, Nussen and Nappi worked with Oceanside Fire Department Ex-Captain Sean Brennan to put together the parade portion of the day.
They also spoke to the responsibility of teaching 9/11 to students who were born after 2001.
“We’re living through this time when 9/11 is going from memory to history,” Nussen said. “There’re still so many people who can share their memories and educate this generation on its history.”
“As the next generation comes up, we feel that responsibility to educate,” Manning said.
The day started with the varsity men’s soccer game against Baldwin, at which fire trucks from both communities hoisted a massive American flag as the names of those lost on 9/11 were read. After the game, a 2-1 Baldwin victory, the Sailors joined the march over the Schoolhouse Green with the Oceanside Fire Department, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and residents.
As they marched, attendees passed 3,000 paper flowers with U.S. flags sticking out of each to commemorate the nearly 3,000 people who perished on 9/11. This was another touch by the school district, as elementary and high school students started to craft the flowers in the spring of last year.
When the hundreds of attendees ended the march at the Schoolhouse Green park, school district and fire department officials held a solemn ceremony. Nussen and Manning read the names of the 13 Oceanside residents who died on 9/11, with a bell rung in honor of each.
Three memorial wreaths honoring first responders, residents and those who died from 9/11-related illnesses were unveiled. The parents of fallen FDNY firefighter Kenneth Marino revealed the first wreath, and Lainie Alvarez, widow to NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez who fought for the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund alongside comedian Jon Stewart, unveiled the third wreath.
Donald Hayde, a retied FDNY battalion chief and current Baldwin Fire Department member, was the ceremony’s keynote speaker. Hayde spoke of the desperate efforts to find people in “the pile” and attending subsequent funerals and wakes for friends, family members and fellow first responders.
“It was very easy at this time to harbor feelings of revenge, hate and retribution because it seemed everything we were dealing with had come from some form of evil. One started to think that evil had taken over the world,” Hayde said. “But that feeling began to change. In so many ways, there came outpourings of love from all corners of the country.”
“It’s still hard every day to think about it. Especially on the anniversary it’s rough,” march attendee Chris Hegmann said. “It’s just nice to see communities coming together to celebrate it the right way and remember those we lost.” Hegmann’s father worked for the Port Authority and lost friends and co-workers on that day. Hegmann was a freshman in high school at the time.