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.”