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Hauppauge

Photographer Bolivar Arellano was on the scene when the World Trade Center’s south tower was imploding. Photo by Bolivar Arellano

My day on September 11, 2001, began like many others that Tuesday.

It was a beautiful morning as I drove to my job in Farmingdale, listening to the radio. I can’t remember what station was on, but I will never forget the DJs stopping the music, shocked that they just saw on TV a plane crash into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

The radio hosts thought it had to have been an accident.

But then I entered my office and headed toward my cubicle, and coming down the other side of the aisle was a co-worker saying another plane had hit the other tower. It was at that point we feared that our country had just undergone a terrorist attack.

We all began to call our family members and friends who lived or worked in the city, and we couldn’t get through. That day, our office was closed early. Like many, I was numb as I made the trek home, but I was fortunate I didn’t lose any loved ones. However, forever etched on my mind will be seeing the tragedy played out on the news and seeing people roaming Lower Manhattan hoping someone had seen their missing loved ones.

I have read countless stories about the people killed that day and watched documentaries of the day’s events and aftermath, but I have been affected most by the passing of two of my former classmates from the Hauppauge High School Class of 1986. John Tipping, a firefighter, was one of the first responders on the scene, and Joseph Perroncino was working for Cantor Fitzgerald as vice president of operations.

I was extremely shy in school, so I wasn’t a friend to either of them. Joseph was simply a familiar face in the halls of Hauppauge’s middle and high schools. As for John, he and I attended school together from fourth to 12th grade. He was one of the children of Forest Brook Elementary School, and he always had a boyish face and a twinkle in his eyes.

Despite the fact we never became friends, something is haunting about losing someone you went to school with for years. It’s hard to explain those feelings, but I can tell you I feel a great sense of unfairness. John and Joseph should have been at our 20th and 30th reunions talking about things such as their careers, significant others, children and other memorable events. When I think of Joseph and John is when I get the saddest and angriest.

After 9/11, I realized how much my life resembled a quilt, adorned with patches left behind by everyone I have ever met and interacted with at some level. My quilt has many holes, and my former classmates are among the tears in the fabric.

Americans have learned many lessons since that day. I have always hoped we could keep them forever. It shouldn’t have taken such tragedies to make us realize how fortunate we are to be Americans and to make us look around at everything we have and at everyone in our lives and realize how lucky we are, but that’s what happened that day. On the 20th anniversary of that tragic day, my hope is that we will forge ahead stronger, smarter and with more gratitude in our hearts and guarantee that those who passed away on September 11 didn’t die in vain.

Rita J. Egan is the editor of The Village Times Herald, The Times of Smithtown and The Times of Huntington, Northport & East Northport.

The 9/11 memorial in Hauppauge. File photo by Rita J. Egan

“One of the worst days in American history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.” — Former President George W. Bush

These were the patriotic thoughts of this president who reflected on the heroic services that were demonstrated by Americans during and after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. 

While it has been 20 years since our nation was attacked by the sting of terrorism, Americans have not forgotten this tragic moment. On the North Shore — about 80 miles from Manhattan at its easterly point — there are many memorials that honor the local residents who were killed, the dedication of the rescue workers and the War on Terror veterans who defended this nation at home and abroad for the last two decades.

There has been a tremendous amount of support from the local municipalities, state and local governments, along with school districts to never forget 9/11. People do not have to look far to notice the different types of memorials, landmarks and resting places that represent those harrowing moments and the sacrifices that were made to help others and defend this country. 

Calverton National Cemetery

Driving northwest on Route 25A, it is possible to quickly see the reminders of sacrifice within the Calverton National Cemetery. This sacred ground is one of the largest military burial grounds in America and driving through its roads, there are flags that have been placed for veterans of all conflicts — especially the most recent during the War on Terror. 

One of the most visited sites there is that of Patchogue resident Lt. Michael P. Murphy who was killed in 2005 in Afghanistan, where under intense enemy fire he tried to call in support to rescue his outnumbered four-man SEAL team. 

As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, local residents can also see his name gracing the front of Patchogue-Medford High School, the post office in Patchogue, the Navy SEAL Museum that is near completion in West Sayville, and a memorial created for him on the east side of Lake Ronkonkoma, where he was a lifeguard.

Shoreham-Wading River—Rocky Point—Sound Beach—Mount Sinai

West of Calverton, at the main entrance of Shoreham-Wading River High School, you will notice a baseball field located between the road and the Kerry P. Hein Army Reserve Center. 

One of this field’s former players, Kevin Williams, was killed on 9/11, where he was a bond salesman for Sandler O’Neill, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. This 24-year-old young man was a talented athlete who was recognized with MVP honors on the baseball, golf and basketball teams for the high school. 

A foundation has been created in the name of Williams, an avid New York Yankees fan, that has helped provide financial support to baseball and softball players unable to afford attending sports camps. 

Not far from Shoreham, driving westward, motorists will notice the strength, size and beauty of the Rocky Point Fire Department 9/11 memorial. This structure is located on Route 25A, on the west side of the firehouse.

Immediately, people will notice the impressive steel piece that is standing tall in the middle of a fountain, surrounded by a walkway with bricks that have special written messages. In the background, there are names of the people killed during these attacks and plaques that have been created to recognize the services of the rescue workers and all of those people lost.  

Heading west into Rocky Point’s downtown business district, VFW Post 6249 has a 9/11 tribute with steel from lower Manhattan. Less than a half mile away, on Broadway and Route 25A, the Joseph P. Dwyer statue proudly stands high overlooking the activity of the busy corner.  

This veteran’s square remembers the service of PFC Dwyer, who enlisted into the Army directly after this nation was attacked and fought in Iraq. He struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and this statue supports all veterans who have dealt with these hard psychological and physical conditions. 

A short distance away, the Sound Beach Fire Department also created a special structure on its grounds through a neighborhood feeling of remembrance toward all of those people lost.

Heading west toward Mount Sinai, it is easy to observe a wonderful sense of pride through the Heritage Park by its display of American flags. On the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Memorial Day, residents see these national and state colors, and this always presents a great deal of patriotism for the people utilizing this park.

Coram—Port Jefferson—St. James 

More south on County Road 83 and North Ocean Avenue, visitors of all ages enjoy the Diamond in the Pines Park in Coram. There, people have the opportunity to visit the 9/11 Memorial Learning Site. This site honors all of the citizens lost from the townships of Brookhaven and Riverhead, the rescue workers and War on Terror veterans.  

For 10 years, the site has helped reflect on this assault on America through the major bronze plaques with historical information, black granite pictures, benches, and statues of a bronze eagle and a rescue dog that helped search for survivors of the attack at the World Trade Center.

Leaving this park and going north into the village of Port Jefferson, people enjoy the beauty of its harbor, its stores, and they see traffic enter via ferry from Connecticut. Through the activity of this bustling area, there is a large bronze eagle that is placed on a high granite platform.  

Perched high, citizens from two different states brought together by the ferry are able to walk by this memorial that helps recognize the lost people of Long Island and the New England state. Driving near the water through Setauket, Stony Brook and into St. James, there is a major 7-ton memorial that highlights a “bowtie section” of steel from the World Trade Center.  

Due to the type of steel on display, there are few memorials that capture the spirit of the St. James Fire Department 9/11 site.

Nesconset—Hauppauge—Smithtown

Traveling south down Lake Avenue toward Gibbs Pond Road and Lake Ronkonkoma, the 9/11 Responders Remembered Memorial Park in Nesconset is located at 316 Smithtown Blvd. This is a vastly different place of remembrance, as it is continually updated with the names of fallen rescue workers who have died since the attacks 20 years ago. 

Taking Townline Road west into Hauppauge toward Veterans Highway and Route 347, you will end up at the Suffolk County government buildings. 

Directly across from Blydenburgh Park in Smithtown, is a major 9/11 memorial created by the county. This memorial has 179 pieces of glass etched with the 178 names of the Suffolk County residents killed on September 11, with one extra panel to honor the volunteers who built the memorial.

As commuters head west to reach the Northern State Parkway, they drive by a major structure that was created to recognize all of those citizens from Huntington to Montauk killed on 9/11 by terrorism. It is just one of many such monuments created by our local townships, fire departments, parks and schools.  

Even after 20 years, our society has not forgotten about the beautiful day that turned out to be one of the most tragic moments in our history.  

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

A new website dedicated to addiction and mental health resources has been unveiled to provide residents with easy-to-access services for those who are struggling. 

On Thursday, July 22, Suffolk County legislator and chairwoman of the county Legislature Health Committee, Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), joined county Department of Health Services Commissioner Gregson Pigott, county Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services Director Cari Faith Besserman, together with members of the county Department of Information Technology and the county Addiction Prevention and Support Advisory Panel outside the William H. Rogers Building in Hauppauge to announce the launch of the website suffolkstopaddiction.org.

The webpage was created by Resolution No. 34-2021, introduced by Anker and unanimously passed earlier this year. 

The legislation directed the county Department of Information Technology and the Department of Health to collaborate to create a comprehensive webpage dedicated to addiction, mental health, substance use disorder prevention and rehabilitation services. The webpage features sections that include important emergency numbers, substance use disorder and mental health information and resources, and a list of treatment providers compiled by the county Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services.

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“I want to thank the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, the Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services and the Department of Information Technology for their tireless work they put into creating this webpage,” Anker said. “With the concerning rise in addiction and mental health issues after a challenging year, our hope is that this webpage will help increase the accessibility of the possibly life-saving resources that are available through the Suffolk County Health Department and improve our ability to reach those who are in need of help in our county.”

Anker sponsored the resolution in response to the growing opioid and substance abuse epidemic in the county and across the U.S. 

During an October public hearing, Victoria Sunseri, a Suffolk County constituent in the medical field, noted that it was difficult for providers to locate mental health and/or addiction resources for their patients. The panel members echoed the importance of providers being able to connect a person to treatment options and for residents to find important information in a user-friendly way. In response, Anker facilitated the creation of the webpage singularly dedicated to addiction and mental health resources and services.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have received a surge in calls from individuals seeking mental health resources from crisis intervention to addiction rehabilitation,” Sunseri said. “This mental health hub will serve to empower individuals by reducing the time and frustration they might experience while seeking help appropriate to their needs and by streamlining reception of services through increasing the salience of who does what, where and how.”

This comes just days after the county Legislature convened July 12 to consider and vote on certificates of necessity concerning settlements with several defendants in the county’s pending opioid litigation. These certificates were approved promptly after legislators met in executive session to discuss details related to the litigation.

On Feb. 3, 2015, county legislator and current presiding officer, Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), introduced legislation to establish a six-member committee to determine the viability of legal action against drug manufacturers and ascertain Suffolk’s costs due to the over-prescription of opioids. 

Following this study, Calarco spearheaded the resolution that authorized the special counsel to commence legal action(s) against all responsible parties. The law firm of Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC was retained, on a contingency basis, to represent the County of Suffolk in this complex litigation. 

Suffolk County was one of the first three counties in the United States to act against opioid manufacturers in 2015. The counties of Orange and Santa Clara in California and the city of Chicago took similar action in that same period. These settlement dollars will be used in accordance with any requirements outlined in relation to such settlement and, in all likelihood, will be put toward educational programming, treatment and other related efforts to remedy the impacts of this crisis. 

According to a Calarco press release following the July 12 special meeting, settlements were approved with Rite Aid of New York $1.5 million; CVS $3.5 million plus the additional amount of $500,000 if certain settlements are reached with other defendants; Walmart $3,062,500; Walgreens $5 million; Johnson & Johnson a sum between $8.4 million and $19.8 million over 10 years “to be used for restitution and abatement and agreeing not to manufacture, sell or promote opioids going forward”; and between approximately $10.4 million and $19.6 million over nine years from the Purdue/Sackler family. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“When we began to experience this crisis, it quickly became apparent that our constituents were being overprescribed opioids, and this negligence is what led to the widespread addiction in our community,” Calarco said. “Pharmacies had a responsibility to track the distribution of these medications carefully. Their failure to do so furthered the impact of this crisis by allowing individuals to pharmacy shop to obtain more of these powerful drugs. The pharmaceutical companies and their affiliates knew that they were pushing a highly addictive drug that was unsafe for long-term use. Yet, they proceeded anyway, all in the name of turning a profit.”

He added that while these settlements cannot repair the damage done or bring back those who we lost to the grips of this epidemic, it has already made a substantial impact. Doctors are now prescribing medication differently, and two of the major manufacturers of these dangerous medications will cease production for good. 

“With this settlement, we are going to have substantial resources that we’re going to be able to put into this epidemic that’s been plaguing our county for so long, and to be able to make sure that our residents had the ability to get connected to treatment services to prevention services,” Calarco said at last Thursday’s press conference. “There are windows of time, where you have clarity, and you recognize that you need help. … We need to make sure that we have the resources there for you at those windows, so you can take advantage of that help. That’s what this resource guide is about — it’s about making sure that you know where to go.”

On Saturday, June 12, elected officials from Suffolk and Nassau counties, along with union leaders, paid respect to local transportation workers who lost their lives to COVID-19.

Family members and friends of the 21 public transportation workers who succumbed to the virus were on hand for a dedication of a memorial garden to their loved ones on the east side of the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge.

The garden features a stone with all of the workers’ names and five American white dogwood trees donated by the Bridgehampton High School’s Future Farmers of America under the direction of Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz.

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), who chairs the Legislature’s transportation working group, led the event.

The committee initiated the idea to salute the workers with the memorial. Fleming said with families not being able to properly mourn during the pandemic due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was important to take time out to remember the workers.

She said the concept of essential workers evolved over the past 15 months, from frontline workers such as police officers, firefighters and health professionals to educators, grocery store workers and more.

“Our public transportation workers ensured that each of these essential employees got to his or her workplace,” Fleming said. “Our bus drivers, and our train operators and our transportation workers literally kept our society moving and our economy afloat. We owe them a debt of gratitude that we cannot fully express.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) thanked labor leaders for working with the county during a difficult time.

“You have done so much to lead, to represent these essential workers and to work with us,” he said. It was “in an environment in which none of us had a playbook on how to deal with this, how to handle this.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D) said the families do not grieve alone.

“When people come and see these beautiful trees they’re going to ask questions, are going to want to know what happened here — why is this here?” she said. “People will know about your loved one’s sacrifice, and we’ll know about their lives. The fact that they were out there when so many other people were afraid, getting the doctors and nurses, getting the grocery store workers, getting home care workers to where they had to go. It was selfless work.”

Among the speakers were the Rev. Shaju Devassy, associate pastor of Church of St. Barnabas the Apostle in Bellmore; the Rev. Charles Coverdale, pastor of First Baptist Church of Riverhead; Debra Hagan, Transport Workers Union Local 252 president; Daniel Kane Jr., Teamsters Local 202 president; Anthony Simon, SMART Transportation Division general chairman; and Bill DeCarlo, national vice president/legislative director of Transportation Communications Union/IAM.

The Hauppauge High School Chamber Choir sang “A Parting Blessing” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Lt. Sean Murtha of the Suffolk County Police Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums played “Amazing Grace.”

Hagan said the workers left their homes every day knowing the risks they were taking, trying their best to protect themselves with masks, hand sanitizer and keeping their distance from others.

“They made that sacrifice, because the communities needed them to get on those buses and do their job,” she said. “It’s so important that we never forget that every morning they got up, and they left their home, kissed their loved ones goodbye. And unfortunately for many, sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice of contracting COVID and leaving us on this Earth. We’re not going to forget. Each and every one of your family members holds a very special part in our hearts. Their co-workers are never going to forget the camaraderie.”

It was Corey Watson’s stick that led the way for the Comsewogue Warriors with five goals in the Division II matchup at home against Hauppauge May 14.

Comsewogue’s offense struggled early in the game having to overcome three unanswered goals by the Eagles. Overcame they did when senior attackman Corey Watson scored two goals back-to-back, Vincent Herbstman answered the call with a goal then Watson followed scoring two more. Michael Katz got on the scoreboard for a 7-4 lead late in the third quarter. The Warriors controlled the game the rest of the way, allowing Hauppauge only one last score, to win it 12-5

Watson topped the scoring chart for the Warriors with five. Katz finished with three goals, and teammates Jake Deacy, James Mantione and Justin Bonacci each scored. Senior goalkeeper Mason Oak saved six.

The win lifts Comsewogue to 4-1 for a share of third place in the division behind Mount Sinai and Shoreham Wading River.

County Executive Steve Bellone with Dr. Gregson Pigott in front of the vaccine pods in Hauppauge. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is encouraging residents to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

On Thursday, April 29, he joined Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Dr. Shaheda Iftikhar, deputy commissioner for the Department of Health Services and Holly Rhodes-Teague, director with the Suffolk County Office of the Aging outside the H. Lee Dennison Building to announce the second phase of the county’s “Take Your Shot” campaign. 

With vaccine hesitancy on the rise, the multi-media campaign will utilize TV, radio and targeted digital advertisements to address misinformation and build trust for those still on the fence. 

Bellone said at the press conference that as of April 29, there were 271 new cases of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours out of 15,628 tests. 

“That’s a positivity rate of 1.7%,” he said. “That is huge.”

He added the last time the county saw a number nearing the 2% mark was at the start of the virus’ second wave back in the fall around Halloween — before the Pfizer vaccine became available.

“We are below 2% positivity, but we’re back in that 1% range where we were throughout the summer last year, when we were still dealing with the pandemic with no vaccines,” he said. “So, this is significant.”

Bellone noted maintaining the lower number is proof that the vaccines are working.

Aline of people ready to get their vaccines. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“We want to get to the point when we say this virus is behind us once and for all, and the vaccines are the key to reaching our goal,” he said. “You need to be doing everything that we can to get people vaccinated to #TakeYourShot.”

The first phase of the Take Your Shot initiative was originally launched late last year in an effort to foster public awareness and designed to encourage county residents on the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccines. 

The second phase launched last week will continue to help remove potential barriers for people getting the vaccine. 

“As of yesterday [April 28], more than 660,000 residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Suffolk County,” he said. “That’s nearly 45% of our residents. While we’ve made tremendous progress over the last few months, at this point, there are no excuses, vaccines are available to everyone 16 and older.”

Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is the only shot eligible to teenagers, and Bellone said he’s encouraging high school juniors and seniors to do their part. 

“We have a lot of school-related activities that are opening up and coming back — prom, graduation — and we’re very excited that those are going to happen,” he said. “Getting vaccinated is a way to reduce the spread of the virus and make those big gatherings safe.”

Bellone had another message to young people. 

“You have a stake in this county,” he said. “You can be part of the effort to completely defeat this virus in and help save lives.”

The county also announced walk-in vaccination appointments available at select county vaccine pod locations.

“Our residents are busy, they want flexibility,” he said. 

Started on April 29, residents can visit the Selden campus at Suffolk County Community College and get their vaccines anytime between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. 

“We’ve seen promising progress,” he said. “As more of our economy continues to open up, we want to return to normalcy.”

County Executive Steve Bellone stands outside the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge where a new vaccine rollout will begin in a couple of weeks. Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown

A new COVID-19 vaccination site finally opened at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, where the vaccine’s mass distribution will be given out to hundreds of residents in the upcoming weeks.

The latest expansion will help Long Island recover from the consistent 4% positivity rate that surged to a height of 12% during the second spike of the coronavirus outbreak in February.

“The numbers have declined since, but they are not declining any further at this point,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said March 24. “We have undoubtedly hit a plateau and are stubbornly maintaining this approximate 4% positivity rate.”

Predicting the positivity rate would drop down to 1% by March, Bellone said his predictions did not happen. The hospitals are still hovering around 400 COVID patients and even with vaccine quantities increasing, officials are continuing to see the positivity rate at a steady level.

According to Bellone, the reason for the consistently high percentage in COVID cases is due to warm spring weather creating an overall eagerness to leave quarantine, making opportunities for locals to catch the virus.

“The fact that many people are getting vaccinated and that spring is here, people are rightly feeling optimistic and positive,” Bellone said. “That is leading to more people coming out, which is a positive thing, but we do need to be cognizant of the fact that the virus is not gone and that there are still risks.”

So far, the county has vaccinated more than 400,000 residents with at least their first dose, but expects to see a rapid increase in vaccination supply in the upcoming weeks. 

Despite the positive outcome of Suffolk County opening up its latest mass vaccination site, other areas on the Island, such as the Twin Forks, remain some distance away from distribution points. Bellone said he is aware of the problem. 

“We’ve gone to great lengths to get to every corner of the county,” he said. “We even took a plane to Fishers Island to make sure we can get residents, who are isolated, the vaccine.” 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

Almost a year to the day of the first reported case of COVID-19 in Suffolk County, elected officials joined mourning families to remember the lives lost. 

On Monday, March 1, Suffolk County Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) with his colleagues and officials unveiled a new county COVID-19 memorial in Hauppauge. 

“Over this last year, I don’t think anybody at the beginning would have thought that we would have had so many trials and tribulations, so many challenges and so many losses,” Calarco said.

Since March 2020, there have been more than 500,000 deaths nationwide from the virus, and just over 3,000 in Suffolk County. 

“That is a tremendous number of people,” Calarco added. “And it has left many of us mourning.”

The wooden structure, located outside the Legislature’s William H. Rogers Building at 725 Veterans Memorial Highway, was built and donated by Smithtown Boy Scout Troop 888, and will be on display throughout the month of March.

Families and loved ones are encouraged to write the names of those who have passed, tying the purple ribbons on the metal cords across the wooden planks. It’s a way, Calarco said, to memorialize them.

“Because especially for those who were lost early on, family members weren’t able to lean on each other,” he said. “They weren’t able to be with their loved ones in the hospital due to restrictions. They weren’t able to have the normal funeral and wake process for their friends and family. When we grieve, we need to have the community around us to support us.”

Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman spoke on behalf of County Executive Steve Bellone (D) who was not in attendance. 

“Three thousand people in this county lost their lives … that’s more than 3,000 families grieving,” he said. “We in Suffolk County stand with them. We grieve with them. We know that we’re in the process of getting through it, we’re getting through it together.”

The first group of families able to share names tearfully thanked the county for honoring their loved ones. 

The family of Sgt. Keith Allison of Brentwood was the first to tie the ribbon. Allison, who spent 25 years in uniform with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, died in December after a 17-day battle with the coronavirus. 

“I’m humbled to be here and to accept this ribbon in his name,” said his wife Brenda. “I know that he’s looking down smiling.”

County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) said of his former colleague that he was “not only just a friend of mine, but a person who was always smiling, always helpful and always energetic and passionate about his job.”

County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart came to support the Van Zeyl family. Lt. Robert Van Zeyl, of Selden, passed away from the virus on Jan. 20 after a two-week battle. He was the first active county police officer to succumb to COVID-19. 

“I think we all thought that we would be immune from this tragedy, and it really hit our family very hard, our police family,” Hart said. “Bob was out there every day. He didn’t stop. He didn’t back down during the most difficult of times in this pandemic. So, we were honored to have him in our family, and we will always be honored to have you with us. And we’ll never forget what he’s done for us.”

Van Zeyl’s ex-wife, Tina, joined their two children Hailey and Tyler in the emotional ribbon tying. Hailey had the honor of putting her dad’s name on the memorial. 

“It felt like I was honoring my dad,” she said. “I know he’s proud of me.” Anyone who has lost someone to COVID-19 may submit their loved one’s name for inclusion in the memorial online at scnylegislature.us/covid-19-memorial. The website also provides the option to share a photo and a memory about the person. 

After the county receives the submission, county staff will write the loved one’s name on a ribbon and affix it to the memorial. 

Ribbons will also be made available to those who wish to write their loved one’s name and tie the ribbon themselves, at both the memorial in Hauppauge as well as a temporary structure on the East End in the lobby of the Evans K. Griffing Building at 300 Center Drive in Riverhead. Any ribbons tied in Riverhead will be incorporated into the memorial. 

More information is available at the above website.

Doug Jansson spent 63 days away from his family, battling and almost dying from COVID-19. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Doug Jansson finally got to spend Christmas with his family — nearly two months after the holiday.

Friends and family gathered outside St. Charles Hospital to cheer Doug on. Photo by Julianne Mosher

On Dec. 12,  the 42-year-old pastor was brought into Stony Brook University Hospital after he and the rest of his family contracted COVID-19 in late November. He was intubated in the Intensive Care Unit on Christmas Eve, and placed on life support where it was thought he wasn’t going to make it.

“I think I remember him being sick only a handful of times in the 20 years we’ve been married,” his wife, Kelly, said back in January. “When we got COVID, he was worried about me — nobody was worried about him getting hit this hard.”

But now, the lead pastor of Living World Church in Hauppauge is back home in Smithtown after 63 days.

On Feb. 12, the father of three was wheeled out of St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, where he was undergoing rehabilitation for nine days, since being discharged from Stony Brook on Feb. 3. Jansson said he was able to get up and walk out because of prayer. 

Early on in the pandemic, Jansson organized prayer parades with his church, often visiting local hospitals to support essential workers and victims of the virus. 

Doug embraces his family after two long months apart. Photo by Julianne Mosher

But then he became ill, himself. After being in the ICU for not even two days, he began complaining of severe pain. A CT scan revealed a pleural effusion (fluid in the chest), a secondary pneumonia, pleurisy and a small pneumothorax (air in the chest). His right lung collapsed.

That’s when his wife knew she had to share his story. Kelly logged into his Facebook account and began updating his friends, family and followers of his progress. Some days were better than others, but one thing she kept asking of everyone was to keep praying. 

Kelly said she began receiving messages from people all over the world, telling her they were keeping Doug in their thoughts and prayers. Now he’s finally home.

Doug embraced by his wife, Kelly, while hospital workers cheer on. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Feb. 12 was always a special day for the couple, Kelly said outside St. Charles Hospital the day of his release. Twenty-one years ago, on the same date, he proposed to her. 

And to celebrate his release, nearly 100 people gathered outside with balloons, signs and streamers to cheer the pastor on as he got in his car, ready to go home.  

“I’m thankful that we’re here and so grateful,” Doug said before he addressed the crowd outside. “I know that God has set it up to be just a miracle and something that we can’t express that we know we don’t deserve. But he’s giving, so we’re really thankful.”

When asked how this whole experience made him feel, his voice broke. 

“I would say two words keep coming to mind when people ask me that,” he said. “One is painful. It’s been very difficult, fighting through this and being away from my family. But the other word is, in a weird way beautiful, because I’ve gotten to see doctors and nurses and health care people in a different light and really get to know them.”

He said the essential workers have been there for him and his family. 

“I also feel like God’s put me through this to try to be there for them, to encourage him, pray for and bless them,” he added. “I know that, for whatever reason, this story has impacted people and, you know, that makes going through it worth it because I know people are being drawn to Jesus.”

The family pet, Chewy, was happy to see his dad again. Photo from Kelly Jansson

Nearly a week home, one of his first requests, he said, was to get a slice of pizza from Ciro’s in Smithtown. And on his way home, the pizzeria donated two large pies to the family to celebrate his homecoming. 

The family was finally able to celebrate Christmas, and their dog, Chewy, was so happy to see his dad again.

“He’s doing really well,” Kelly said on Feb. 15 in a phone interview. “He’s working so hard on getting stronger. There’s still a way to go, but we will help him get there.”

And Doug said his couldn’t have done it without the support from his family, church, faith and the prayers from strangers. 

“I am so grateful to God to be home with my family after all this time,” he said. “We are enjoying every second of it.”

Doug and Kelly Jansson have been chronicling Doug’s near-death experience with the virus, and want people to know it can happen to anyone. Photo from Kelly Jansson

Doug Jansson hasn’t been home in over six weeks, and his story is being heard all around the world. 

Right now, the lead pastor of Living Word Church in Hauppauge is in the Intensive Care Unit at Stony Brook University Hospital, said his wife Kelly Jansson. But the good news is he’s alive and heading toward recovery after a terrifying battle with COVID-19. 

On Nov. 30, the Jansson family tested positive for the virus. After 10 days, his wife said, Doug was getting worse so they called an ambulance.

“I got a phone call the day before Christmas Eve that he was declining,” Kelly said, her voice breaking. “They didn’t think he was going to make it.”

Doug, a healthy, athletic 42-year-old father of three from Smithtown, shouldn’t have gotten the virus, she said. 

“I think I remember him being sick only a handful of times in the 20 years we’ve been married,” she said. “When we got COVID, he was worried about me — nobody was worried about him getting hit this hard.”

Kelly said the next day he was put on a ventilator. “He was not doing well,” she said. “They weren’t sure if he was going to make it half the day.”

But she said the doctors and nurses at SBUH have been “amazing” toward her husband and family.

“I got a phone call saying they had a plan to save his life,” she said. 

Doug spent six days on life support and 13 on a ventilator. Eventually he was moved to the ICU where he sent his wife a text after more than two weeks.

“It was the best day of my life — it was incredible,” she said. 

Doug Jansson. Photo from Kelly Jansson

After being in the ICU for not even two days, he began complaining of severe pain. A CT scan revealed a pleural effusion (fluid in the chest), a secondary pneumonia, pleurisy and a small pneumothorax (air in the chest). His right lung collapsed.

Early on in the battle, Kelly — who isn’t on social media herself — decided to update Doug’s Facebook friends on his page, chronicling what was going on inside the hospital walls. His story has been shared hundreds of times thus far. 

“That’s Doug’s personality,” she said. “He’s so down-to-earth and real — I knew people would pray for him knowing what was happening.”

And the prayers are working. Throughout his illness, members from Doug’s church made it known they were praying for him.

Early on in the pandemic, Doug organized prayer parades around the hospitals. He held drive-in services to eliminate in-person gatherings. Now, he’s the one receiving prayers.

“I’ve gotten messages from people in other countries saying they’re standing and praying for him,” she said. “Now that Doug is fully awake and reading all these comments on Facebook with such encouraging words, he is so blown away that this was happening.”

Although Doug is still in the ICU, he’s stable. His oxygen levels are gradually going up, his voice is coming back and he can FaceTime with his family and friends from his hospital bed. He said that God was watching out for him these last six weeks, and that all the support from his neighbors and strangers has been emotional for him. 

“It’s been incredible,” he said. “All these random people praying for us, believing in us and praying to get me out of here … it literally brings tears to my eyes.”

Doug said he is so thankful for being able to tell his story, especially since he almost lost his life.

“There’s always hope in God,” he said. “During impossible situations, he comes through.”

His wife said it’s not over yet, and he has a long battle ahead of him. “But every day is a step forward, and any step forward is a significant step.”

While his titles are father, pastor, husband and son, Kelly said she has another name for him now.

“There is no doubt this is a miracle — God responded and did something,” she said. “I call him Miracle Man … God did this.”