A bell tolled 11 times at Seaford High School last week as a crowd of silent onlookers honored the lives of the 2,977 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Family members of the victims and local religious leaders took turns sounding the bell in front of the school, each strike representing the death of an individual or members of a group. Five Seaford High School alumni died in the attacks: Robert Sliwak (class of 1977), John William Perry (’82), Thomas Haskell (’82), Michael Wittenstein (’85) and Timothy Haskell (’85).
The bell was also sounded in memory of all victims of 9/11, first responders and rescue workers, all veterans and members of the U.S. armed forces, all victims of Covid-19 and the Seaford community, as well as the hope for world peace.
The annual ceremony, organized by the Seaford High School 9/11 Memorial Committee, began with a presentation of the flag by the Nassau County police color guard, escorted by the Nassau County Police Pipe and Drum. The Seaford, Wantagh and Freeport fire departments were all
represented in the honor guard.
The ceremony also acknowledged three Seafordites who served in Afghanistan: U.S. Marine Cpl. John Krzyminski, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Anton Augustin and U.S. Army Pvt. Ariel Alexander Rameriz.
“We know there are some, even here, that only know about the events Sept. 11, 2001, by the documentaries, news articles and the stories of loved ones who lived through it,” the Rev. Joseph Fitzgerald of St. William the Abbott Roman Catholic Church said during a prayer. “We ask that you help those who labor with the burden of a lost loved one, the ... nightmares, the health effects as a result of the sacrifice and courage of being down in the pile of the days and weeks after. Tonight we remember the souls of all those who perished in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania — but especially our Seaford sons and daughters.”
Peter King, a former U.S. representative and a 2004 Honorary Patriot Award winner, offered his reflections during a brief speech. “I was at ground zero with President Bush on Sept. 14 . … I never thought what I saw then would be brought back. The horror, the devastation, the agony… and yet today, it’s all rebuilt, as has the spirit of our country,” King said. “There is no community on Long Island that has more dedication, has had as great a response, and has had the endurance and fortitude necessary than the people of Seaford.”
Ken Haskell, former FDNY and Seaford 9/11 Memorial Committee president, who lost his two brothers, recognized them and the other three Seaford High alumni who died.
“These men were proud to be Vikings. They shared the same hopes and aspirations as the students that are here tonight,” Haskell said. “And although their time on this earth was cut short, they had just enough time to inspire us all.”
The Rev. Micah Stumme of St. David’s Lutheran Church in Massapequa Park and Monsignor Steven Camp, a 2004 Honorary Patriot Award winner, also reflected.
Camp asked audience members to live every day with the same selflessness that Americans did on Sept. 12: “The silence of the night was broken the following day by everyone doing something. No one stayed in. People were getting things for others. No one asked what religion they were, or looked at the color of their skin … Everyone in this community did something to go beyond themselves that day,” he said.
As firefighter Jeremy Riddle of FDNY Engine Company 332 and the Seaford High School Honor Chorale performed a tribute song, audience members lit candles to remember those lost.