The Seaford community once again declared that it would never forget the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, recently selecting five Seaford High School seniors for scholarships in the annual presentation of the Patriot Awards.
The seniors — Ryan Baldwin, William Cascio, William Kind, Nicole Nietsch and Jamie Young — were presented with the awards at a dinner at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on June 26.
Five scholarships are presented each year in honor of the five Seaford High alumni that were lost on 9/11 — brothers Thomas and Timothy Haskell, John Perry, Robert Sliwak and Michael Wittenstein. The Haskells were both firefighters, and Sliwak and Wittenstein worked for Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center. Perry, who was set to retire as a New York City police officer, sprang into action to save lives during the attacks.
After their deaths, Tom Condon, a longtime teacher in the Seaford school district, along with other community members and the district PTA, founded the Seaford 9/11 Memorial Committee, which is funded by donations.
According to Condon, who knew all five men, the committee aims to keep their memories and spirit alive, and to bring out the best in the Seaford community. The committee’s slogan is, “Service builds character, make it your commitment.”
“After 9/11, a lot of people were very angry,” Condon, now the committee’s chairman, told the Herald earlier this year.
“That was in the news every day — turmoil, unrest, anger. But when I met with all of the families together, they said that they wanted to do something positive to remember their sons — not out of anger, not about retaliating, something positive.”
As a way to remember the victims, Condon and Ken Haskell, brother of Thomas and Timothy, decided to create a scholarship for Seaford High seniors. Each year, the committee, working with the PTA, selects five students for the scholarship, which became known as the Patriot Award. Students apply anonymously, and are selected based on numbers they are given, making it a completely objective process.
The scholarships have been awarded every year since 2002, and the annual dinner has become a highly anticipated and popular event among residents of Seaford as well as the surrounding communities of Wantagh and Massapequa.
The scholarship winners all said they were extremely honored to be selected, with Young adding that it “doesn’t feel real” to have won.
Given the popularity of the scholarship program, the committee decided to take it a step further by presenting Honorary Patriot Awards to two or three notable members of the Seaford community each year. The recipients have included former U.S. Rep. Peter King; Brian Conboy, former longtime district superintendent; and Charles Wroblewski, a Lions Club member and the Herald’s 2016 Person of the Year.
This year’s Honorary Patriots are Joe Mottola, Elaine Tamsen and Nicola Bilotta.
Mottola, who attended Seaford High and was coached by Condon, knew both of the Haskells as well as Perry. Mottola spent was a member of the Seaford Fire Department for 10 years before moving to Massapequa in 1991, where he now serves in the Massapequa Fire Department.
Tamsen, a Seaford resident since 1984 who practices law in Bellmore, said she enjoys doing volunteer work for veterans in Seaford. Her son, Dustin, was a recipient of the Patriot Award in 2003, and she has been a friend of the committee ever since. Condon told the Herald in April that the committee had to persuade Tamsen to accept the award, which, he added, indicates how much she truly deserves it.
Bilotta, who lives in East Rockaway and opened an auto shop in Seaford in 2014, told the Herald in April that Seaford’s clubs and organizations, including the 9/11 committee, help give Seaford a strong sense of community.