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9/11

The Setauket Fire District’s 9/11 Memorial Park includes a monument with all the victims’ names.

The Setauket Fire District will hold its annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony Monday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. The event will take place at the district’s 9/11 Memorial Park, adjacent to the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook.

All are welcome to join the members of the Setauket and Stony Brook fire districts, local legislators and Boy Scout troops at the event.

The park was described as a “solemn park made by mortals to remember angels” during a speech given by Department Chief William Rohr last year. It features two trees planted in 2016 that were seeded from the 9/11 survivor tree located at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center. The park also includes a stone monument inscribed with the names of those lost on 9/11 and a patriotic water display.

Among those who will be remembered are Thomas Dennis of Setauket, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald; New York City firefighters Frank Bonomo and John Tipping both from Port Jefferson; Patrick Lyons of Setauket; and New York City firefighter Captain Thomas Moody of Stony Brook.

File photo

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad and Arson Section detectives are investigating a house fire that killed a Selden woman on the morning of Sept. 19.

Sixth Precinct officers and members of the Selden Fire Department responded to 76 Ferndale Ave. at approximately 6:30 a.m. after a neighbor called 911 to report a fire at the location. The lone resident of the home, Eufemia Smith, 85, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner.

A preliminary investigation has determined the cause of the fire to be non-criminal, but the investigation is ongoing.

By Michael Tessler

Covered in ash, crawling through rubble, debris and fire — we found hope. Watching as brave heroes marched into towers set aflame — we found courage. Seeing an American flag rise above a hellish landscape of melted steel, blood and death — we found unity.

Our nation, at least for a moment, stood as one. Though shattered, our hearts pounded together in perfect rhythm. We knew that we would overcome the horrors seared into our memory that dreadful September day. Americans, by nature, do that — overcome. We rebuild, we remember and we defend our great American experiment. For more than two centuries we’ve fought for that noble concept, despite all odds and adversities. No enemy foreign or domestic has ever been able to change that simple and profound truth.

Thomas Butler from Kings Park, right, made the ultimate sacrifice while saving others on 9/11. Photo from Michael Tessler
Thomas Butler from Kings Park, right, made the ultimate sacrifice while saving others on 9/11. Photo from Michael Tessler

My memory of that day is the clearest of my entire childhood. For so many years I’ve loved heroes I’ve never met. Mourned at the reading of names: the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. They often come to mind, especially their families, whose loss remains profound and ever present.

Fifteen years later we’ve strayed far from that national singularity, that special comfort knowing that even in the chaos, we have one another. Today it feels that we are torn so far apart that I can barely recognize the America I love.

In this time of darkness, I’m reminded of wisdom bestowed upon us by the greatest generation, in a time not so dissimilar from our own: “… the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Perhaps our nation is still reeling in forgotten grief. Or maybe we’ve lost our national innocence and have given into the cynicism. Perhaps a decade of violence with no end has rendered us apathetic to the world at large, but I refuse to believe that is true or permanent. There will never be a clear path forward, but it must be clear that there is a path forward.

We do not have to agree with one another to show civility, we do not have to hate to protect ourselves, and we must not allow fear to dictate our lives. Those who perished represented nearly every facet of the American people. Their religions, race, sexual orientation, gender, hopes, dreams and aspirations in no way diminished the gaping hole we felt from their loss. They were people, they were our American kin, and we must ensure that “never forget” is not just a Hallmark slogan but an eternal call to action.

We are Americans. We will crawl through ash, rubble, debris and fire to give one another hope. We will march up towers aflame to give one another courage. We will raise an American flag above a landscape however hellish to let the world know that we are the UNITED States of America and that “a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

In loving memory of Thomas M. Butler, the hero I never knew.

Michael Tessler is the Special Projects Manager for TBR News Media.

Firefighters place caps over hearts in memory of those lost during the Setauket Fire District's 9/11 Memorial Commemoration Sept. 11th. Photo by Greg Catalano,

On the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, we reminisce about how on that day, and for so many days that followed, we felt united as a country. A persistent theme when discussing the events is that the aftermath of the attacks brought us closer together as a nation. Our editorial staff would argue that 15 years removed means we still reside in the aftermath, and the legacy of 9/11 is still being written.

If we continue to splinter along party and racial lines, ties that bound us together in a time of horrible tragedy will simply be forgotten.

There was evidence that immediately following the events, we grew closer as a nation. Stories proliferated about long lines of blood donors, American flags flew everywhere — on front porches and cars — people took the time to help one another and civility ruled the day. And as we observed memorial events throughout the past weekend, communities still came together in harmony and with pride.

The initial feelings of solidarity as a reaction to the horrific events were real. However, we would hope that 15 years later, this feeling of unity would continue to apply to more issues.

After visiting classrooms and speaking with teachers, some of whom are now educating children who were born after that day in 2001 or are too young to remember it, the theme of unity struck a chord with them as well.

Our editorial staff wonders how America right now must look to those same students. They can turn on the news and witness divisiveness in an unfathomably ugly election season or see an NFL player being both heavily criticized and highly praised for kneeling during the national anthem. Do we still seem united?

While we feel a sense of togetherness on the anniversary of that day, as we recall the tremendous loss of innocents, or remember those who risked their lives to save others and think of those out there fighting to protect this country, there is still an overwhelming sense that we are growing further and further apart.

Fire departments, town and village governments, and schools all participated in memorial events to commemorate the lives lost during Sept. 11, 2001. Residents came to show support, as well as help read off the names of those who perished, lay wreaths and take a moment to honor the American lives lost, and all the first responders and civilians who helped save lives at Ground Zero.

 

A man touches the wall to pay respect to someone he lost on Sept. 11, 2001 at Rocky Point Fire Department’s 9/11 memorial service. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Residents throughout Suffolk County will have their choice of memorial ceremonies to attend this Sept. 11.

Huntington

The East Northport Fire Department will be hosting its annual memorial service this Sunday, with two separate events, both being held at the Ninth Avenue side of the firehouse at the 9/11 Memorial Monument on Sept. 11. The morning ceremony will begin at 9:45 a.m., and the evening candlelight vigil will begin at 8 p.m. Both ceremonies are set around an eight-foot, 8,000-pound steel beam from Ground Zero that the department received from the Port Authority. During the ceremony, firefighters will read victim’s names, and sirens will sound to commemorate the collapse of the twin towers. The Northport High School Tights will sing the national anthem and “America the Beautiful,” with “Amazing Grace” played by the Northport Pipe & Drum Band. There will be a 21-gun salute from the Marine Corps League and the release of memorial doves.  A memorial banner will be displayed on a fire engine that lists all of the victim’s names. A Suffolk County Police Department helicopter will be doing a flyover during the ceremony. 

Huntington Town will also be holding a small ceremony at Heckscher Park at noon this Friday, Sept. 9.

Smithtown

Members of the East Northport Fire Department participate in the annual 9/11 memorial service on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Members of the East Northport Fire Department participate in the annual 9/11 memorial service on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Commack School District will be presenting a candlelight ceremony of remembrance. It will be held at the Commack High School football field at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11. The 9/11 Memorial Players, Mimi Juliano, Mark Newman and Joe Zogbi, will perform music, and honorary guest speakers will attend.

The St. James Fire Department will also be hosting a service at 6 p.m. Sunday at the 9/11 memorial at the firehouse. Local legislators will speak, the Smithtown High School band and choir will perform, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9486 will perform a gun salute. The names of Smithtown residents and community members who lost their lives on Sept. 11 will be read including New York Police Officer Glenn Pettit, New York Fire Department Chief Lawrence Stack, New York Fire Department Chief Donald Burns, Port Authority Officer Jean Andrucki and New York Fireman Doug Oelschlager.

Brookhaven

The Order Sons of Italy in America will host its seventh annual 9/11 tribute. The candlelight remembrance is at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at Harborfront Park at Port Jefferson Village Center located at 101A East Broadway. The event will feature guest speakers and refreshments. All are welcome. For more information contact Anthony Rotoli Jr. at 631-928-7489.

The Sons of Italy Lodge was renamed the Vigiano Brothers Lodge to honor Port Jefferson residents. John Vigiano Jr. was a firefighter and Joseph Vigiano was a police detective.  On Sept. 11, 2001, both Vigiano brothers responded to the call to the World Trade Center, and both were killed while saving others. John Vigiano Sr. is a retired NYC firefighter whose two sons followed him into service.  The attacks of 9/11 inflicted a tremendous loss on his family and also on our country. Therefore, we honored these two heroes and their family by naming the Sons of Italy Lodge after them in Port Jefferson.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department will host its annual 9/11 memorial ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 11, at 9:30 a.m. At the Maple Place firehouse, firefighters and residents will gather to pay their respects to those who died in the terrorist attacks in 2001, including first responders from the Town of Brookhaven who perished while answering the call of duty at the World Trade Center. The ceremony includes a memorial service in which the names of the town firefighters who died that day will be read aloud.

An official plays the bugle at Port Jefferson Fire Department's 13th annual 9/11 memorial ceremony. Photo by Giselle Barkley
An official plays the bugle at Port Jefferson Fire Department’s 13th annual 9/11 memorial ceremony. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The Rocky Point Fire Department 9/11 Memorial Committee invites the communities of Rocky Point and Shoreham to its 15th Annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. This ceremony will take place at the 9/11 Community Memorial site which is located on the corner of Route 25A and Tesla Street in Shoreham, next to the Shoreham Firehouse. Light refreshments will be served after the ceremony.

In honor of the 15th anniversary of the events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001, the Setauket Fire District will host a community 9/11 remembrance ceremony Sunday, Sept. 11, beginning at 10 a.m. The program will take place at the district’s 9/11 Memorial Park, located at 394 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook. The ceremony will include brief remarks from department representatives, a moment of silence and the official dedication of the two “survivor trees” recently planted in the fire district’s 9/11 Memorial Park. These trees were seeded from the 9/11 survivor tree located at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center. Light refreshments will follow the ceremony, and attendees will be invited to visit the different sections of the expanded Setauket 9/11 Memorial Park, which also includes a stone monument inscribed with the names of those lost on 9/11 and a patriotic water display.

The Alumni Association of Stony Brook University will sponsor a commemoration of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, throughout Monday, Sept. 12, with a field of pinwheels on the Academic Mall. This is the third year that the event will be held. Students and faculty are invited to take a moment to remember those lost.

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When we need each other, we come together. That, as much as anything else, is the legacy of 9/11. Its 15th anniversary falls this Sunday.

Every year, we in the news business and, indeed, in society, struggle to know how to remember that terrible day in 2001. Years ago, the editor in chief at the New York Daily News, where I was working, asked me when we should stop running the names of the people who died that day, when 9/11 should no longer be on the front page, and when we should respect the day but give it less coverage. I told him I couldn’t imagine that day.

Those of us who knew people that died think about those people regularly, not just on an anniversary or at a memorial. They travel with us, the way others we’ve lost over the years do, in our hearts and in our minds.

Those first few days and months after the attacks, people in New York stopped taking things for granted and saw the things we share with each other as a source of strength.

This year, in particular, seems a good time not only to remember what makes us and this country great, but also a time to reflect on who we want to be and how we want to interact.

We have two candidates for the White House who seem intent on acting like impetuous Greek gods, shooting weapons at each other and describing each other’s faults and weaknesses to us.

Debate and disagreement are part of this country, just as they were in 1858, when Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas famously debated across Illinois. And yet, despite their disagreements and their passion for office, they held each other in considerably higher esteem than the two unpopular candidates who now want to be president.

How can the two parties that seem so intent on running in opposite directions today, and the two candidates who genuinely loathe each other, work together, come together, and inspire us when they are so obsessed with their animosity?

This Sunday, and maybe even this week, we should remind them — and ourselves — about all the things we Americans felt and did on those days after 9/11. Certainly, we mourned those we’d lost and we wondered aloud about our enemies.

But we also visited with each other, made calls to friends and family, checked on our neighbors, and offered support wherever and however we felt able. Some people donated to charities, while others gave blood, time or energy to helping the survivors and the families of those who lost loved ones.

Yes, we looked to protect ourselves and to understand who and what we were fighting, but we the people — the ones our government is supposed to protect, represent and reflect — became more patient in lines and became less upset over the little things. We looked out for each other.

It’s easy to imagine a boogeyman everywhere we go. Generations of Americans have pictured and envisioned monsters from within and without our borders, intent on destroying our way of life.

We can’t let fear and hatred dictate our actions. I don’t want to hear Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump shout about how unqualified each of them is for office. I want them to reflect a respect for all Americans, their opponents included, on this solemn day and during this solemn week. I don’t doubt that each of them loves America. Instead of telling us how they’ll be great leaders, demonstrate it to us by coming together.

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One hundred years ago this week, The New York Times has reported, the worst terrorist attack on the United States until 9/11 occurred in New York Harbor. Black Tom Island, supposedly named after an early African-American resident and owned by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, lay next to Liberty Island and was the site of three-quarters of the American-made ammunitions readied for shipment to Allied forces in World War I. Stored in warehouses, in railroad cars and on barges on the small island, the munitions were targeted with small fires shortly after midnight on July 30, 1916, and the first explosion had the force of about a 5.5 earthquake on the Richter scale. It blew out windows of buildings in lower Manhattan and Jersey City, damaged the skirt and torch of the Statue of Liberty, shattered the stained glass windows in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and windows in Times Square, shook and possibly damaged the Brooklyn Bridge, threw people out of their beds and was heard as far away as Philadelphia and Maryland.

On that fateful night, some 2 million pounds of small arms and artillery ammunition were on the island, along with 100,000 pounds of TNT on Johnson Barge No. 17. Initially small fires broke out along the mile-long pier, and while some of the guards fled, fearing explosions, others attempted to fight the fires and called the Jersey City Fire Department for help. The first and largest explosion, at 2:08 a.m, produced a rain of bullets and fragments, followed by mists of ash that made fighting the fires impossible; and the smaller fires burned for hours, causing explosions throughout the night.

While hundreds were hurt, surprisingly only a few people were killed, including a policeman in Jersey City, the railroad chief of police, the barge captain and an infant thrown from its crib a mile away. Two guards were quickly arrested for having triggered the disaster by lighting smudge pots on the pier to keep away the ever-present mosquitoes until it was realized that the pots were too far from the fires to have been the cause. Further investigation, which continued for years, identified the culprits as German agents who were trying to stop the shipments.

Until early 1915, the neutral United States was able to supply any nation with arms, but after the blockade of Germany by the British Royal Navy, only the Allied forces could purchase arms. Imperial Germany sent secret agents to the U.S. to obstruct production and delivery, and some of them caused havoc and civilian panic in the ensuing years. An effective weapon was the “cigar bomb” that was silently attached to the hulls of departing American munitions ships and only exploded after the vessels were well out to sea. Many ships, with their cargo and crew, were lost that way.

President Woodrow Wilson was desperately trying to cling to neutrality before the coming, tightly contested election against Charles Evans Hughes, chief justice of the Supreme Court and former New York governor. Wilson, as the president who had kept the nation out of war, initially refused to recognize the explosions as the work of the Germans. But after the election indisputable evidence forced his hand, and by early 1917 he prepared the country for war against Germany.

After the war, the railroad sought payment for damages under the U.S.-German Peace Treaty (1921) signed in Berlin and, at last in 1953, an agreement was reached for $50 million to be paid to the railroad. Dozens of railroad cars, six piers and 13 warehouses had simply disappeared into a huge crater filled with water and debris after the first explosion. For practical purposes the island, with its causeway to the mainland, had disappeared. Final payment was not made until 1979. In today’s currency, damages are estimated at $500 million.

Landfill projects through the years time have enabled what little was left to be incorporated into Liberty State Park. A single plaque there tells the tale of the largest terrorist attack until our time.

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Smithtown and fellow firefighters stop to salute 9/11 hero Lawrence Stack, whose remains were honored during a service at Saints Philip and James Roman Catholic Church in St. James. Photo from FDNY

All of Smithtown came to a stop on Friday as the community said a final goodbye to one of its own.

FDNY Battalion Chief Lawrence T. Stack of Lake Ronkonkoma was laid to rest at Saints Philip and James Roman Catholic Church of St. James nearly 15 years after his death on Sept. 11, 2001. The North Shore native, who died helping others in the horrific terrorist attacks of that tragic day, was never recovered from the rubble, forcing his family to hold out hope for a proper Catholic funeral ever since.

A bizarre twist of fate made Stack’s funeral and burial possible on Friday, on what would have been his 49th wedding anniversary with his wife Theresa. While his remains were never found, two vials of blood he donated to a bone marrow bank nearly six months before his death allowed his family to orchestrate a final goodbye in Smithtown.

Lawrence Stack, 58, received a full line-of-duty service on Friday as Smithtown shut down several streets surrounding the St. James church to accommodate the number of people who stopped to honor him, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and countless more distinguished guests. It wasn’t until a year ago that his wife Theresa Stack said she remembered she and her husband donating blood about six months before 9/11 with hopes of matching a Long Island boy who was fighting cancer. Upon remembering and pursuing that blood, Theresa Stack said she found it in a Minnesota blood bank. That blood was buried on Friday.

“We’ve always honored him, respected him, loved him, and we never forgot him. But now he will rest with the members of the FDNY and the military at the Calverton National Cemetery,” wife Theresa Stack said. “I’m happy, and my family is happy, that we finally have some place to go to. I want Larry’s story to be out there so people don’t forget that there are families still suffering from that terrible day.”

Lawrence Stack’s son Michael, who is a lieutenant with the FDNY with Ladder 176, said he would remember his father as someone dedicated to helping others at any cost. In a statement to the FDNY’s Facebook page, Michael Stack detailed the accounts he received of his father’s last day.

“On Sept. 11, 2001, he was at the safety battalion at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, putting the finishing touches on the [fatal] Father’s Day fire report, when he heard about the plane hitting the north tower,” he said. “He went on the roof, looked through his binoculars, and saw the south tower get hit with the second plane. He put his binoculars down, looked to the other chiefs and firefighters and said, ‘Guys, I think they’re going to need us over there.’”

Brian Stack of Ladder 123 was 30 years old when his father died in the Sept. 11 attacks. He said he was thankful to have been able to spend as much time as he did with his father, and felt for the younger children of other heroes who died that day.

“I understood what happened on September 11 because it’s work, it’s the fire department. Danger is always right around the corner. It’s part of the job. I was 30 years old when he died, and I know that I’m lucky that I got more time with my father than some of the men and women coming on the job now,” Brian Stack said. “They were much younger when they lost their fathers. We were fortunate to have so many years with him in our lives.”

In a statement, the New York Blood Center said it was an honor to help bring peace to the Stack family.

“To every member of the FDNY, NYPD and to every rescue worker: We honor you all,” the center said in a statement on its Facebook page. “We honor those fallen in the line of service and those who serve. You protect life in our communities with determination, vision and courage every single day.”

Lawrence Stack worked with the FDNY for 33 years and was one of 343 FDNY members who died on Sept. 11th. He joined the department in 1968, first assigned to Ladder Company 107 and then Ladder Company 175 in Brooklyn. In 1981, he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to Ladder Company 35 in Manhattan. Three years later, he was promoted to captain and assigned to Division 7 in the Bronx, and in 1990, he was promoted to battalion chief, working in Queens at the Bureau of Operations and the Safety Battalion. Prior to joining the FDNY, he served in the United States Navy for six years, including a tour of duty in the Vietnam War.

A piece of Tower 1 from the World Trade Center made its way to the Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department Wednesday to be used as a memorial for the community.

Thomas Buchta, a member of the department, said receiving the metal is important for many reasons.

Brothers Daniel and John Martin, of the Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department, lost their father, Peter C. Martin, a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York’s Rescue 2 in Brooklyn, during the 9/11 terrorist attack.

“It’s significant for us and for the community to remember … what really took place that day and how many people sacrificed and are still to this day perishing because of illnesses that they received from the Trade Center,” he said. “It’s never-ending. [There are] so many to remember. We don’t ever want to forget what happened. We never want to see that happen again, so that’s why it’s important to remember what transpired that day so we keep vigilant and never let it happen again.”

Bob Thornton, another firefighter at Cold Spring Harbor, said the moment has been 14 years in the making.

“It all started back on 9/11, when we got the call to go in,” he said. “I was fortunate [enough] to be one of the 12 guys from our department that went in.”

Thornton said he and other firefighters were sent to Belmont Park to wait to go to Ground Zero, but after three days, they were discharged and sent home.

“It’s like the end of a dream,” he said of finally having the metal come to their community. “I’ve written letters for 14 years to try and get this metal. You kind of lose steam when nothing happens and the years roll by. Now we’re finally coming to fruition.”

Members of the department picked up the beam early Wednesday morning at The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey storage facility, transported it to the North Shore along with units from the New York City Police Department, the Suffolk County Police Department and others.

The steel beam is 17 feet long and 4 feet wide and weighs about 18,000 pounds. According to the department, it is one of the last remaining pieces of steel available for use as a memorial.

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