The Village of Rockville Centre held its 22nd annual remembrance ceremony last Sunday on the village green, honoring the men and women who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and all those who have died since then from the effects of their efforts at ground zero.
The ceremony began with the presentation of the Police Department Color Guard, followed by the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Boy Scout Troop 40 and Girl Scout Troop 846, and the performance of the national anthem by Amalia Breen, Megan Chiara, James Herald, Cayleigh Ricchiuti and Reagan Zelles.
“Let me renew our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those lost on 9/11, and those who have succumbed from related injuries since that horrific day in American history 22 years ago,” Mayor Francis Murray said. “We know you carry pain every day. We know you bear your losses, not just in times of ceremony, but also in ordinary moments of absence in quiet minutes that can seem to stretch on for hours and days. All of us are here because we remember, and I hope knowing that is at least some measure of comfort.”
Murray recognized Judge William Croutier Jr. and the RVC We Care Committee, which Croutier helped create with Murray’s father, the late former Mayor Eugene Murray and the late Anthony Brunetta, to help raise money for families of Sept. 11 victims. Together the group raised more than $1 million, and helped advocate for the village’s 9/11 memorial.
“It serves as a powerful symbol for all of us, and a place for personal dedication, to keep working on remembering the past and committing to make the future even better,” Murray continued. “Few communities suffered more than Rockville Centre, but no community rallied (more) around its neighbors in the aftermath of that horrible event. As we have always done in the face of adversity, the invincible spirit of the people of this village was on full display. We lifted each other up. We responded with goodwill and generosity. We truly showed what it means to be Rockville Centre strong, and that feeling continues to this day.”
Following the mayor’s presentation, Rabbi Michael Cohen, of Central Synagogue-Beth Emeth, gave an invocation. “We stand united not only as members of this community, but as human beings touched by the impact of that fateful day,” Cohen said. “In times of tragedy, it’s our collective spirit and shared values that enable us to persevere. May the Eternal One, the source of all life and peace, envelop us in protective embrace. We pray that those who lost their lives on 9/11 find eternal rest, and that their memories be a guiding light for all of us, illuminating our path towards righteousness and compassion.”
Three candles were lit, and placed on the three stone pillars of the memorial by relatives and loved ones of those who died on Sept. 11.
Christopher Olson and his sister, Maeve, spoke about their mother, Maureen Olson, a Rockville Centre native who died in the attacks. Christopher, now 41, said he was only 19 at the time, and was at college in Pennsylvania when he watched the tragedy unfold.
“I’ve lived now longer without my mom than I did with her, which is truly staggering to think about sometimes,” he said.
He recalled how he rushed back to Long Island, with the help of friends and neighbors in the Police Department who helped him through checkpoints on the trip back.
“I was here in Rockville Centre for those first few months, when all of us were kind of in an extended period of shock and confusion,” Olson said. “I went back to Pennsylvania in January, and for the next few years I traveled a lot.”
He studied abroad, in Germany and Sweden, but never forgot about his hometown, he said. “We’ve always had a strong community here,” Olson said, adding how much he cherishes living in the village, where he is now raising his 9-year-old daughter.
“She and I play Frisbee here a lot of times when it’s nice out,” he said. “And we always make sure we take a look at the memorial, and talk about her.”
Maureen Olson’s name, along with those of the 48 other village residents who died on Sept. 11, was read aloud during the ceremony.
This year, there were seven additional names, of those who died in the aftermath of the attacks: Charles F. Kerrigan, Robert E. Sullivan, Michael J. Schnitzer, FDNY Battalion Chief Stephen J. Geraghty, Daniel P. Morrissey, FDNY Battalion Chief Richard E. McGuire, and NYPD Lt. Zachary A. Slavin — all of whom died of illnesses related to the toxins in the dust from the collapsing buildings.
The crowd stood as American Legion Post 303 Commander Frank Colón played taps, and Peter Garrity and Tom McNicholas performed an acoustic rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Once the colors were retired, the large crowd dispersed.