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9/11 memorial

A new sign bears witness to the toll Sept. 11, 2001 continues to exact from South Huntington and the surrounding communities.

Town of Huntington officials unveiled a sign dedicating Iceland Drive as “NYPD Officer Mark J. Natale Way” in honor of a South Huntington resident who died of a 9/11-related illness. About 100 family members, friends and his former colleagues gathered for the Sept. 14 ceremony on what would have been his 56th birthday.

“Officer Natale dearly loved his family, friends, colleagues and community as the number of people gathered here to celebrate his life today shows the impact he made on all of us,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “The sign we are unveiling today is a reminder of his legacy.”

“The sign we are unveiling today is a reminder of [Mark Natale’s] legacy.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Natale was a South Huntington native who graduated from Walt Whitman High School before joining the New York City Police Department in 1985. He was stationed with the 94th Precinct in Greenpoint when the planes hit the World Trade Center towers during the 9/11 attacks. Natale guided dust-covered people fleeing lower Manhattan over the bridges into Brooklyn and onto ferries to New Jersey. In the days following the attacks, he stood guard at the gates surrounding ground zero.

Natale died May 4 of brain cancer at his South Huntington home, which was brought about by his exposure to the scene.

“We have not as a nation or region spent enough time honoring and remembering those people in the aftermath of 9/11 who went into harm’s way and paid the same exact supreme sacrifice with their lives as those who perished that day,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “Today, we proudly recognize Officer Mark Natale as a hero.”

This was the second ceremony Huntington town officials have hosted in as many months, dedicating a street in honor of first responders who have died of 9/11 related illnesses.

“The fact of the matter is that more uniformed and un-uniformed personnel who took part in the search, rescue and recovery operations that perish will surpass the number of people who were killed on Sept. 11, 2011,” Suffolk County Legislator Tom Donnelly (D-Deer Park) said. “We can never, ever repay people like Mark Natale for what they did that day, or in the weeks and months afterward.”

“When you pass by NYPD Officer Mark J. Natale Way, take a moment to look up at the sign and smile.”

— Mayra Natale

Donnelly said the health care issues faced by 9/11 responders is of “epidemic proportions” and estimated one individual per week is dying as a result of their service following the attacks.

“[Mark Natale’s] battle and bravery he demonstrated after 9/11 also serves as a beacon of hope for those who continue to fight 9/11-related illnesses,” Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said. “By naming this street and showing his acts of bravery, he provides who to those who are still out there fighting.”

Natale’s wife, Mayra, thanked all those who attended the ceremony alongside the couple’s three children Dominick, Catherine and Lauren for honoring her husband’s memory along with one special request.

“We all lost a piece of our hearts when we lost Mark,” she said. “He will live on eternally in our good deeds and the love we share with one another. When you pass by NYPD Officer Mark J. Natale Way, take a moment to look up at the sign and smile.”

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The names of 163 first responders were added to the long list of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Saturday in Nesconset.

The Nesconset 9/11 Responders Remembered Park hosted its 14th annual ceremony Sept. 15 where a bell tolled for each name added to the memorial wall. Crystal Gajewski-Borella, the vice president of the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park Foundation that maintains the site, said it’s painful to see the number of names increasing every year.

“We added 163 names this year – this is the most amount of names we’ve added since we started,” Gajewski-Borella said.

“We added 163 names this year – this is the most amount of names we’ve added since we started.”

— Crystal Borella

Families members from across the U.S. came to the small corner park in the Town of Smithtown hamlet to honor those listed on the ever-growing wall first unveiled in 2011. Many used thin sheets of receipt paper to trace the names of their loved ones. Patrick Franklin flew in from California to honor his father, Detective Sean Franklin of the New York City Police Department, who died from 9/11-related respiratory issues in 2017.

“It’s a really beautiful memorial, and I’m happy they put in everyone who died from sickness after,” Franklin said.

The 11 members of the Pilcher family came from as far away as Utah to honor Robin Pilcher, Captain of Utah Task Force One who died of pancreatic cancer in 2017.

“Being here today is exciting because we get to remember our dad,” Pilcher’s daughter, Brandie Paterakis, said. “If he could have died in any way, this is the way he would have wanted to go, in honor and as a hero, sacrificing his life for others.”

Many 9/11 first responders and volunteers who helped dig through the rubble looking for survivors and clearing the area now suffer from a number of diseases tied to their service from respiratory infections to cancers.

“9/11 was the longest day in the history of days, but it’s not over – people are still dying.”

— John Feal

The September 11th Victims Compensation Fund was created following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to provide compensation for any individual who was injured or the family of those killed as result of the attack. It was renewed by President Barack Obama (D) in 2011 and again in 2015, extending benefits through 2020. Many 9/11 responder advocates fear the fund will not be renewed in 2020.

Nesconset resident John Feal, president of the FealGood Foundation that advocates for health care benefits for first responders, said the impetus is on elected officials to see these people receive the proper support. Feal regularly travels up to Washington D.C. to advocate for 9/11 responder’s health care.

“9/11 was the longest day in the history of days, but it’s not over – people are still dying,” Feal said. “We have to keep fighting so we don’t have to keep adding names to this wall.”

The park foundation is looking for donations to help maintain and add to the park grounds. For more information on how to donate or volunteer, visit www.respondersremembered.com.

Huntington residents stood silently in the cold rain Sept. 9 to honor the 43 people from the Town of Huntington who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

As each victim’s name was read aloud by a Huntington town official, a bell was rung by a Bill Ober, chairman of the town’s Veterans Advisory Board, and a single rose was laid at the base of the 9/11 memorial in Heckscher Park. The names were read by Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) and councilmembers Mark Cuthbertson (D), Gene Cook (R) and Joan Cergol (D).

“It’s hard to believe that there’s an entire generation of young people who do not [what?] what it was like to live and experience with memories of that day,” Lupinacci said. “It is the memory of your loved ones that we hold this ceremony each year and every year, so that we can remember your loss, which remains our loss, and educate those too young to have lived through that day.”

Seven of the 43 names read were first responders, including members of the Fire Department of the City of New York  and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

“As always on this sad day of remembrance, we ask the question what we can productively do in the face of such extreme hatred and evil,” said Rabbi Yaakov Raskin, of Chabad of Huntington Village, who gave the benediction for the ceremony. “Much in the answer lies in the education of our children.”

17-foot long World Trade Center steel beam is focal point of monument remembering 9/11 victims

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A 17-foot World Trade Center steel beam stand in Cold Spring Harbor, more than 35 miles from New York City, as a solemn reminder of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.

The Cold Spring Harbor Volunteer Fire Department officially dedicated its 9/11 memorial in Fireman’s Park, directly across from its headquarters at 2 Main Street, in a June 16 ceremony. More than 2,750 people were killed in the terrorist attacks, which includes 42 residents from the Town of Huntington.

“We will never forget those who perished on 9/11,” said Thomas Buchta, chairman of the fire department’s 9/11 Committee. “We will remember the sacrifices of those who rushed into the building to fight the fires, to rescue those who were trapped, and the thousands of people who simple went to work that morning and never returned home.”

“[Peter Martin] left behind his wife and two young sons, but he also left behind a legacy. ”
– Chad Lupinacci

Two fire department members, brothers Dan and John Martin, are following in the footsteps of their father, Peter Martin, who died on 9/11. Peter Martin served as a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York’s Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. He was 43.

“He left behind his wife and two young sons, but he also left behind a legacy,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “He loved his occupation and left a record of how many fires he fought over the years and many stories to tell.”

Martin also served as a volunteer firefighter in the Miller Place Fire Department, where he lived with his family at the time.

“While our grief recedes with time and our lives move on in different ways and directions, our resolve and the memories of love friends, co-workers and family will never wane,” said Cold Spring Harbor Fire Chief of Department Daniel Froehlich.

The brothers both served as members of the 9/11 Committee which has worked for more than two years to erect the monument. In May 2016, the 17-foot by 4-foot artifact from World Trade Center Tower One’s 62nd floor was transported from where it was stored at John F. Kennedy Airport out to the Town of Huntington Recycling Center for safekeeping while plans for the memorial were finalized.

“Now 17 years later, think about whether we’ve slipped back into everydayness.”
– Tom Suozzi

Volunteers started constructing the memorial in the fall of 2017, featuring the nearly 18,000-pound beam in a shape reminiscent of a cross being lowered into the ground Sept. 9. Three saplings grown from offshoots of the Callery pear tree that endured the 9/11 attacks, called the “Survivor Tree,” were planted around the memorial with a plaque to explain their significance.

“When you look at it don’t forget the anguish and loss, but don’t forget about the other things this symbolizes, the strength and resilience of spirit,” said Greg Cergol, husband of Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) and master of ceremonies. “Those are the things that unite and define us as Americans.”

The keynote address was given by U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) who recalled his own desire to help in response to 9/11 in his position as mayor of Glen Gove and visit to ground zero. He questioned if Americans were losing the focus and sense of community that united them in the days that followed.

“Now 17 years later, think about whether we’ve slipped back into everydayness,” Suozzi said. “Love matters. Forgiveness matters. Our friends, our families and our communities matter.”

After a moment of silence was held for the 9/11 victims, the Martin family rang the bell of Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department five times each in four intervals. It’s part of a long-held tradition in the fire department that signals the last alarm of a firefighter who has answered his or her last call.

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