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Memorial

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Jon Stewart, Raymond Pfeifer and John Feal talk after the ceremony honoring those lost on and after Sept. 11, 2001. Photo from John Feal

To the wall, the names were new, but to those at 9/11 Responders Remembered Park, they brought with them years of courage and heroism. All eyes were on the park on Saturday as 61 more names were etched into its wall of heroes, honoring those who paid the ultimate price for their efforts in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The event was packed with first responders, their families, lawmakers and advocates, including advocate and first responder John Feal of Nesconset’s FealGood Foundation and comedian Jon Stewart.

“This park was built … to serve the 9/11 community with grace, dignity and humility,” Feal said to the crowd before the new names were read aloud. “I hope this park will help tell the stories of our nation’s greatest resources: its citizens, both uniformed and nonuniformed.”

Feal and several members of what they called the 9/11 community have descended upon the Nesconset park every year since it was established in 2009 to add names to the wall of heroes, paying tribute to those who have died on or after that horrific day. Martin Aponte, president of the North Shore park, reminded the crowd that they were not there to mourn, but to reflect, remember and recognize the stories behind the names on the wall behind him.

Jon Stewart and John Feal observe the wall of heroes at the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park. Photo from John Feal
Jon Stewart and John Feal observe the wall of heroes at the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park. Photo from John Feal

“To maintain this park is the least we can do for those who have served our nation with distinguished honor, courage and sacrifice,” he said. “We are here only to serve a fragile fraternity of heroes who come here to rest and join their brothers and sisters. Their story is told through this park.”

Feal, along with Stewart and New York City firefighter Raymond Pfeifer, used the ceremony as a means to celebrate a recent legislative victory they helped accomplish nationwide after years of pushing Congress to renew the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, which supports first responders whose illnesses are linked to their efforts on 9/11. For his tireless advocacy on the subject, Pfeifer was awarded an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol along with a golden firefighter’s axe on a plaque.

Pfeifer, who spent eight months on top of the debris pile of the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, has stage-four cancer and spoke from a wheelchair about the collaborative efforts it took to overcome that day.

“Today is a good day. It’s sad, but nobody gets out alive. Anytime you can tell a story about [first responders] that’s a good thing,” he said.

With a heavy-hearted expression on his face, Stewart read each of the names that were added to the wall that day in somber tone. The tolling of a bell followed each name. After his remarks, the comedian and former host of “The Daily Show” remarked on his time on the front lines of advocating for first responders’ benefits. He spoke to inspire those in attendance against the fear of terrorism, saying “we win” because of America’s unending resource of courage.

“I’m always humbled when I’m in the company of Ray and John, and all the other responders,” he said. “I can never in my life repay the debt that you all gave to not just me, but to the city and to the country. We owe you, and we will continue to owe you forever.”

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A memorial will rest on the pre-existing hill on the new Tom Cutinella Memorial Field. Photo from Ryan Ledda

Shoreham-Wading River High School’s “Tommy Tough” slogan is not only changing the culture of the Wildcats football team — it’s changing the community.

When Tom Cutinella passed away from an on-field collision last year, sophomore Ryan Ledda was right in the middle of thinking about what he should do for his Eagle Scout project. Ledda didn’t know Tom, but his sister Gabriella did, and after seeing how the loss affected her, coupled with what he saw during a Clemson University football game, his memorial idea was born.

“Before each game, the Clemson team comes onto the field touching a memorial called Howard’s Rock, and I figured I could do something similar to that,” Ryan Ledda said. “That the team could come out and touch the memorial for good luck before each home game. My goal is that everyone in the school could be connected to Tom without him being there. So no one will forget him.”

First, Ledda presented the idea to high school Principal Dan Holtzman, before going to the board of education.

“I thought it was an impressive one,” Holtzman said. “It was well-received by the board of education and they gave Ryan the go-ahead. I think it is a meaningful and thoughtful project and one that I hope encourages students at all grade levels to engage in community-oriented projects.”

Ryan Ledda, whose Eagle Scout project will raise money to fund a memorial in Tom Cutinella’s name. Photo from Ryan Ledda
Ryan Ledda, whose Eagle Scout project will raise money to fund a memorial in Tom Cutinella’s name. Photo from Ryan Ledda

The proposal was a 4- by 20-foot retaining wall on a pre-existing hill on the field that would have a concrete base with pavers stacked on top. In the middle will be a pedestal with a bronze bust of Cutinella. The bronze piece will be life size.

“I thought it was a very big project — I was very nervous,” Ledda’s mother Jennifer Ledda said. “I myself didn’t know the Cutinellas, but after Ryan went to the board and got approval I met Mrs. Cutinella. I found out how the boy was outstanding in every aspect of what he does. It reminded me of all of the kids who do good.”

According to Ryan Ledda, the project is estimated to cost $30,000-$40,000. The approval was quick by the board, but the approval by Boy Scout Troop 161 in Shoreham took longer.

“You need to fill out a long application and they send it back with improvements and revisions,” he said. “But they thought it was a great idea. A lot of the Eagle board members knew Tom’s family so they wanted to help out. Once they heard how much it was going to cost they got a little freaked out, but I told them how I was going to raise money and how important it was because of how Tom affected the community.”

To help fund the project, bricks are being sold that can be engraved, to rest atop the base. Smaller bricks cost $125, while larger ones cost $250.

“Those who went to school with him will always remember him, but kids to come that didn’t know him might not, so hopefully this can help them honor Tom,” Ledda said.

The sophomore created a website where the bricks can be purchased, and he handed out flyers in front of the school that were donated by a local printing company. To purchase a brick, go to www.bricksrus.com/order/bsatroop161. There is also a GoFundMe account raising funds for the base of the memorial and bronze statue.

The goal is to reach $20,000. Currently, 34 people have donated a combined $3,271 in the last month. Fourteen of those people have donated $54 or $154, representing Cutinella’s jersey No. 54. To donate to this project, go to www.gofundme.com/tomcmemorial.

For Shoreham-Wading River varsity football coach Matt Millheiser, he thinks all projects done in Cutinella’s name have been beneficial for the community.

“Outside of football, you see so many projects and so many things done — whether it’s a run or a blood drive or this Eagle Scout project — that are done in Tom’s name, he said. “It really shows the impact he had as a person and some of the good things that are being done by his friends and family and even people that didn’t know him, in the things they do throughout their lives. I think it is part of his long-standing effect.”

As for the memorial, the head coach knows it will only add to the field.

“I think it’s a great, worthy cause and idea — they’re all good things to remember their friend and brother who was lost,” Millheiser said. “‘Tommy Tough’ kind of changed the culture of Shoreham-Wading River football and the way the kids viewed how they went to work, how they practiced and how they prepared and how they carried themselves, and it really speaks to his legacy.”

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Two people embrace at a lights of Hope event two years ago. File photo by Heather Khalifa

In honor of September’s National Recovery Month and the upcoming National Substance Abuse Prevention Month in October, a Long Island group is hosting a candlelighting event to support struggling or recovering addicts and families who have lost loved ones to addiction.

Dan’s Foundation For Recovery, a nonprofit Stony Brook resident Dori Scofield recently formed, is holding its second annual Lights of Hope event at Port Jefferson Harbor on Sunday, Sept. 20. The event, from 7 to 9 p.m., will take place at the memorial park on West Broadway across from Village Hall and will include a candlelighting ceremony, fundraising raffles, live music, refreshments and guest speakers. The New York chapter of support group The Addict’s Mom is co-hosting the event.

Scofield, also an animal advocate known in the Port Jefferson Station area as the founder and president of Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center, started Dan’s Foundation in honor of her late son, who died at age 25 from a heroin overdose. The organization aims to connect people struggling with addiction and parents with local resources, and to raise awareness of drug abuse on Long Island.

For more information about the group, visit www.dansfoundation.org.

Community members gathered to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States. During memorial events across Suffolk County, ceremonial shots were fired, victims’ names read aloud and flowers laid down.

Members of the Setauket Fire Department participate in the annual ceremony in memory of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001. The event is a cherished annual event on the North Shore. File photo by Barbara Donlon

By Giselle Barkley & Victoria Espinoza

After 14 years, the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, have not been forgotten, by residents across the North Shore.

In honor of those who lost their lives on 9/11, this Friday, from 7:30 to 8:00 p.m., the Setauket Fire Department is holding their annual 9/11 Memorial service. The department is holding the ceremony at September 11 Memorial Park on the Setauket Fire Department’s Nicolls Road Station.

The East Northport Fire Department will also be hosting its 13th annual memorial service this Friday, with two separate events, both being held at the 9th Avenue side of the Larkfield Road firehouse at the 9/11 Memorial Monument on Friday, Sept. 11. The morning ceremony will begin at 9:45 a.m., and the evening candlelight vigil begins 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 of New York and New Jersey. During the ceremony, firefighters will read victims’ names, and the sirens will sound at the time of the collapse of the twin towers. The Suffolk County Police Department’s helicopter will do a flyover during the ceremony, and the Northport High School Tights will sing the national anthem and “America, the Beautiful.”

The Commack school district will also be presenting a night of remembrance, also for the 14th year in a row, and the theme this year is patriotism, remembrance and resiliency. The ceremony will be held at the Commack High School football fields at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11. Music will be performed by J.D. Leonard, and honorary guest speakers will attend. This year, there will also be a dedication of the three survivor trees planted in their memorial garden.

Residents, or anyone who wishes to pay their respects, are free to attend this candlelight ceremony. According to Dave Sterne, district manager of the Setauket Fire District, the department will serve light refreshments at the event.

“When it comes to September 11th tragedies, it’s one of the worst things to befall the United States of America, and it was in our own backyard,” Sterne said.

According to Sterne, in light of Sept. 11, the fire department’s park was established and dedicated on Sept. 11, 2004. The park was originally designed by Emily Quinn, who was a Ward Melville High School student at the time. Sterne said Quinn implemented steel beams from the World Trade Center into her design of the park. Additional features were added over time, including lights and a granite wall, which illustrates the twin towers and shows the names of those who lost their lives 14 years ago.

“Unfortunately, in the fire service, it’s a close knit community, and we all knew people that unfortunately [lost their lives].” Sterne said

The Setauket Fire Department’s ceremony is one of several ceremonies responders on Long Island are dedicating to those who died on 9/11. This Friday, Sept. 11, the Port Jefferson Fire Department is holding its annual 9/11 memorial ceremony at 9:30 a.m. on Maple Place in Port Jefferson. Rocky Point Fire Department also scheduled its ceremony on Sept. 11. Residents can attend the service from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. in Shoreham, next to the Firehouse. Locals can also go to 9/11 Responders Remembered Park in Nesconset at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, for a reading of the names.

John A. Meringolo, first assistant chief of the Stony Brook Fire Department said his team of heroes would be doing its part to make sure the memories of those lost live on.

“We continue to be mindful of the sacrifices made on that day and believe that it is important that a memorials take place so such events remain in the memory of all those who continue to benefit from living in a free society,” he said.

While many lost their lives on 9/11, Sterne acknowledged that there are also people, including responders, who are still suffering from the injuries or health complications they acquired from 9/11. Regardless of whom someone is remembering, Sterne said it’s simply important to remember him or her.

“It’s important for ourselves and future generations, as time goes by, that we remember to remember,” Sterne said. “And [that we] gather in a beautiful place that was dedicated just for this reason, and that they respect those that were lost, and continue to be lost, as a result of that tragedy.”

Huntington Town will also be holding a small ceremony at Heckscher Park at noon this Friday, Sept. 11.

Community members take to the court in Hoops for Hope tribute

Local friends and community members come out to play 3 on 3 basketball in support of, and to pay respects to, Jake Engel during the Hoops for Hope fundraiser. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Four years ago, Jake Engel of Miller Place lived in Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson. It’s to that same ministry that the Engel family is donating the proceeds from their first Jake Engel Hoops for Hope fundraiser on Tuesday, which they want to make an annual event.

Last Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, 22-year-old Engel died of a heroin overdose. Engel was born on July 18, 1993. Engel’s wake was on Friday at the O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Miller Place. The mass took place on Saturday at Saint Louis De Montfort church in Sound Beach.

But the Engel family wanted to do one more thing to remember their loved one. After the funeral, Engel’s younger brother, Patrick, wanted to find a way to remember his brother and raise money for a good cause.

Pat Engel dribbles the ball at the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope fundraiser. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Pat Engel dribbles the ball at the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope fundraiser. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“All the proceeds are going to Hope House … He lived there for about two years and it’s a great program,” Pat Engel said. “He made a lot of friends; [it was] probably the best years of his life.”

According to its website, Hope House Ministries aims to “provide compassionate, comprehensive and competent care for the poor, the marginal and the wounded among us.”

According to family friend Lisa Nordin, of Miller Place, various people in need seek shelter at Hope House. While the organization helps people in times of need, the community also wanted to band together in a time of need.

“After this tragedy, we just felt like, as a community, we have to get together and fight against drugs and drug dealers,” Nordin said.

About 15 small, self-appointed teams donated money to participate in this event, where they played half-court basketball at the basketball court at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai.

Brian Sztabnik was one of the many people who attended and participated in the Engel’s Hoops for Hope.

Sztabnik and several others said Engel “loved coming to the beach and he loved playing basketball.”

“They figured might as well put the two things together and have a benefit, and bring the community together, raise some money and celebrate his life,” he said.

Pat Engel said his older brother enjoyed the beach, adding that he was a clammer and spent 8 to 12 hours at the beach, daily.

Countless community members gathered to donate money and participate in the event. Many of them knew Jake Engel in high school. With their help, Hoops for Hope raised more than $5,000 for Hope House Ministries.

Pat Engel thought the event had a good turnout, especially considering it was planned in three days. He also thought this new, annual event was a good way to raise money and honor his brother.

“Jake, he had a wonderful sense of humor,” Engel said. “He could light up the room with his smile. He cared about everyone that cared about him. He loved his family, and his family loved him.”

Friends, family of young victims dedicate memorial to trio

Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese

Friends and family of three Huntington Station youths who were killed over the last two years came together on Thursday evening to dedicate trees and a memorial stone in their honor.

The Huntington Town-sponsored memorial ceremony took place at Depot Road Park and featured friends and family of 18-year-old Maggie Rosales, 25-year-old Danny Carbajal and 23-year old Sarah Strobel, as well as a number of community members.

Rosales was found stabbed to death, lying on Lynch Street in Huntington Station last October. Carbajal was shot in the head in July 2014 outside his Huntington Station home. Strobel’s body was found off the side of a path in Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve in October 2013.

Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese
Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese

Town officials attended the memorial service and offered some words, town spokesman A.J. Carter said on Friday. Many community members took part in the effort, including Kathleen Kufs and Jim McGoldrick, two individuals who organized the event.

“To be honest with you, it was a sad thing that we had to do this, but in a way it brought the community together,” McGoldrick reflected in a phone call on Friday. “And the community is very concerned about our children, and our teenagers especially.”

While there’s still more to do, McGoldrick said “things are getting better” in Huntington Station. He said he got involved in efforts to extinguish crime in the neighborhood after Rosales was found dead in the street in front of his home.

Kufs said she came up with the idea for the memorial a few months ago. She wanted “to have a place for the families and friends of these poor young people who were murdered, a place to go for peace and reflection and for the community to remember that these young lives were lost but not forgotten, and also to shed light on the fact that two of them are still unsolved.”

Police have charged Huntington Station man Adam Saalfield with Rosales’ murder, but the other two victims have not yet seen justice.

“There’s no closure,” McGoldrick said. “Danny and Sarah’s murderers have never been caught. People are very concerned about that.”

A memorial area is decorated outside of the church Monica Peterman once attended. Photo from Holy Church of Christ

It has been one year without Smithtown hospital worker Monica Peterman, but her name was memorialized forever outside the church her family frequents.

Peterman, 45, was killed on June 14, 2014, in a car crash on the same route she often drove between her home in Middle Island and Smithtown’s St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, where she worked. Her family has spent the better part of the past year in courtrooms, to learn the fate of the man accused of crashing into her — Setauket cardiologist Thomas Stavola — but took a step back this week to remember Peterman as a daughter, mother and wife.

The Peterman family gathered with members of the Holy Church of Christ congregation in Central Islip on Sunday to unveil a memorial garden and seating area outside of the church created in Peterman’s memory.

Despite the uncertainty of the ongoing court cases, the family said it was important to pay tribute to the impact Peterman had on their lives, and vice versa, on the one-year anniversary of her death.

Peterman’s children and husband spoke of the horrific memory of the day they lost their mother and wife while fighting back tears on Sunday afternoon.

“Thank you for playing a part in my wife’s life,” said Russel Peterman, Monica’s husband, in a video of the ceremony on Sunday. “Just thank you, and thank you and thank you.”

A memorial was erected outside the church with donations collected throughout the entire Holy Church of Christ community. Later this summer, a bench, complete with an etching of Monica Peterman’s name, will be added to the area.

A spokeswoman for St. Catherine said in an email that Peterman, who worked at the hospital for more than 10 years, was known as a dedicated and well-respected worker and will be greatly missed.

Stavola, 55, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated— a misdemeanor — after the June 14 crash killed the Middle Island native and mother of three, the Suffolk County Police Department said. He pleaded not guilty to the second-degree manslaughter charge, which was upgraded from the original driving while intoxicated charge, as Peterman’s family looked on. He was released on continuation of the $250,000 bond he posted last month, District Attorney Tom Spota said.

Peterman’s family filed a $20 million civil suit against Stavola last summer, with hopes of sending the greater message that driving while intoxicated should warrant strict penalties, according to  Barbara Sims, Peterman’s mother. Family members and friends memorialized the Middle Island mother back in October with a commemorative plaque placed inside the hospital, where she worked for more than a decade.

Stavola’s next court appearance was scheduled for June 26 at 9 a.m. His attorney did not return requests seeking comment.

Spota said the impact of the collision embedded the front license plate of Stavola’s 2013 Audi into Peterman’s 2009 Mercedes side door. His blood, which officers drew 90 minutes after the crash, had a blood alcohol level of .10, Spota said.

Witnesses then helped give officers a description of Stavola, who called for help over the air to nearby patrols. A police sergeant on his way to the crash scene spotted Stavola walking briskly, with his head down, nearly 500 feet away from the crash, the district attorney said. Stavola, a doctor with Stony Brook Community Medical’s North Suffolk Cardiology, was treated at Stony Brook Hospital for minor injuries.

Phil Tepe, Paul Kelly and Fred Amore, members of the Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board, and Supervisor Frank Petrone unveil names at the Vietnam memorial wall on June 11. Photo from A.J. Carter

Huntington Town has added 378 names to its Vietnam War memorial, and unveiled tribute plaques on June 11 as part of a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the conflict and the half-century that has passed since it began.

Almost 3 million Americans served in the military during the Vietnam War between March 1965 and April 1975, and more than 58,000 died in the conflict.

The town kicked off the day with a breakfast that served veterans, their families and supporters and included musical performances as well as a keynote address from Huntington native Frank Libutti, a retired U.S. Marine corps lieutenant general. He spoke about his service and experiences as a platoon commander in Vietnam. During the breakfast, according to a town press release, the names of the 49 Huntington residents who were killed in that war were read aloud.

Later, people gathered at Veterans Plaza in front of Town Hall for a ceremony dedicating the plaques with the 378 new names at the Vietnam memorial wall. The town said there are now 1,540 names at that memorial, which was erected in 2003 and includes names of Vietnam War-era veterans who live or have lived in the town.

The Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board was named an official Vietnam War commemorative partner, as part of an initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the war’s beginning, and the local event was listed on the national website for the program.

Residents across Three Village in East Setauket, Stony Brook and beyond stopped on Monday to honor the memories of our nation’s heroes as their respective Memorial Day parades stepped off.

Groups representing various facets of the community came out in full force to march in the parade before somber ceremonies stopped to say thanks to those who dedicated their lives to military service.