Students, teachers and administrators filled the Rocky Point High School auditorium for its annual program commemorating the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The event, spearheaded by social studies teacher Rich Acritelli, brought in members of the Rocky Point VFW and Suffolk County Police Department. Speakers this year included representatives from the FealGood Foundation, first responders and survivors of the attacks.
All of the students in attendance were not even alive during the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Anthony Flammia, the director of community outreach for the FealGood Foundation, spoke about his experiences serving on the New York Police Department’s highway patrol on 9/11 as well as working with the organization that supports and advocates for the first responders when the towers fell.
“In 2005, the foundation was founded by construction worker John Feal who because of his time working at Ground Zero caused him to lose part of his foot,” the Miller Place resident said. “He had to advocate for himself as no one in government believed that these illnesses were due to his work at Ground Zero.”
The foundation advocates for first responders rights and has assisted in the passage of 13 9/11-related health bills at both the state and federal level. It has also donated $6.5 million to both uniform and nonuniform first responders who are in need of financial help.
He also spoke about the foundation working with Jon Stewart, comedian and former host of “The Daily Show” and how he walked the halls of Congress with them to advocate for first responders rights.
To help give students an idea of what it was like 18 years ago from a student’s perspective, the district asked Lila Nordstrom, who was a student at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, speak about how she had witnessed the attacks from her classroom.
“My teacher taught through the collapse of the first tower, he taught for a good hour as a crisis was happening outside our windows,” she said. “We didn’t know what else to do and when we finally evacuated, we were just told to run North.”
She also spoke about when she and her classmates returned to the school, cleanup at Ground Zero was in full swing. Many were unaware at the time that due to the close proximity to the cleanup the school was contaminated.
In 2006, Nordstrom became a 9/11 activist. She has worked to bring awareness to the school children who were exposed to toxic fumes during the cleanup and has worked with the FealGood Foundation in advocating for 9/11 health bills.
“It gave something positive to move forward out of that trauma,” she said.
At the conclusion of the program, Acritelli spoke on the importance of this event.
“It is just very important, some of these students weren’t even born yet,” he said. “[Today] was very powerful, it is important that they know what emergency personnel and residents in this area did on that day.”