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Miller Place

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 from Alice Martin

Alice Martin remembers it like it was yesterday. 

Her husband, a lieutenant in the FDNY’s Rescue 2, left his Miller Place home on Monday afternoon, Sept. 10, for his 24-hour shift in Brooklyn. He was supposed to come home Tuesday night, but he unfortunately never walked back through the door. 

“I left all the lights on in the house,” she said. “I left the front door unlocked because I figured maybe if he gets his way home somehow, he would just come in.” 

The mom of three boys, ages 13, 8 and 6, had just finished dropping them off at the bus stop when the first plane hit the tower on Sept. 11.

“As the day unfolded, and I was watching the news, I realized he could be there because even though he didn’t work in Manhattan, he was in a rescue company,” she said.

But Peter was always fine, Alice thought. “Then by six o’clock, when obviously he never called and then he didn’t come home, it became very real.”

Looking back two decades later, she doesn’t know how she did it. 

“It was beyond horrible,” she said. “But especially as a mom, that’s really the key. I went into mommy gear right away. My kids needed me more than they’ve ever needed me, and I really  needed to keep my head screwed on straight.”

Photo from Alice Martin

Peter C. Martin began his career as an FDNY firefighter in 1979. A native of Valley Stream, he graduated from St. John’s University where he met his future wife. 

“He was good at it and he loved it,” she said. “I think most of them do … It really is a calling.”

A full-time dad, who also worked at the Suffolk County Fire Academy as a teacher, she said her husband was just “a really good guy. A wonderful dad, and a wonderful husband.”

The two were married for 17 years when he passed away.

“It’s strange … I’ve been without him longer than I’ve been with him,” she said. “I never remarried, and my heart still belongs to him.”

According to Alice, Peter was just 43 years old on 9/11 and was among seven that were killed that day in his firehouse.

“I started calling the firehouse in Brooklyn and nobody was answering. My kids started asking questions,” she recalled. “And as the hours were going on, I felt useless because I wanted to do something. So, I actually started calling hospitals that I knew they were taking the wounded to.”

She eventually got a call that her husband was missing and unaccounted for. 

“That’s when neighbors started coming over, people started reaching out to me, which was comforting in some ways and frightening at the same time,” she said. 

Alice said the outpouring amount of love and support she and her boys got from the local community during that time was “wonderful.”

“I can say nothing bad,” she said. “There was just such a generous spirit from the people of Sound Beach, Miller Place and Rocky Point … That whole area, the letters I got from strangers.”

Peter was the only 9/11 victim from Miller Place. 

“I have to say it was a horrible, horrible situation, but it was also — now looking back — just unbelievable, the goodness of people to strangers they never met,” she said.

Along with learning that a community can come together, Alice said she’s learned two other things after that day’s events.

“I believe in the gift of time with finding a new normal and learning how to live,” she said. “I started taking one thing at a time, whether big or small, I just took everything one thing at a time.”

Twenty years later, with her now-grown sons and a grandson who bears Peter’s name, they still talk about him every single day. 

“Now the good thing is any stories that are told, it’s peaceful because we’re not crying, we’re just talking about him,” she said. “You just keep going, and I’m still going.”

Alice said that her husband would be “busting over the moon” knowing that he’s now a grandpa, and that the baby is Peter Charles Martin, the second. 

Photo from Alice Martin

“He’d be so happy to see that these three little boys have become three wonderful men, all doing wonderful things, all living their dreams,” she said. 

And the sons followed in their dad’s footsteps. All three have begun careers helping other people; as a registered nurse, paramedic and licensed Master of Social Work. 

“They’re definitely making a difference in the world,” she added. “He’d be so proud with everything.”

Peter loved snacks and Alice will be reminded of him when she bakes certain things. 

“I don’t believe in closure, but I do believe in the gift of time and the healing that can come with that,” she said. “The hardest part is you have to go through it.”

Photo from Dani Adler

Dani Adler, originally of Port Jefferson, is always up for a challenge. 

Earlier this summer, NewBeauty Magazine sent out a notice looking for women to compete in its Fab Over 40 competition. The winner will receive a two-page spread in the magazine, $40,000 cash and a spa trip.

Spending most of her life as a model and actress, Adler, currently of Miller Place, got involved with the competition on a whim and now she’s asking for your help to win. 

“I’m trying to get every vote I can,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a close call, and I don’t want to take any chances.”

Photo from Dani Adler

The former Miss Belle Terre has had quite the career; she competed in beauty pageants across the state, was an extra on “Baywatch” and modeled most of her adult life. After leaving Port Jeff to pursue a life in Manhattan, she eventually landed in California for seven years where she began working in event planning. While hanging among the stars, she had a stint working on the Queen Mary and alongside celebrities like Danny Aiello, John Travolta and Sonny Bono.

When she came back to New York for a what was meant to be a quick visit, she ended up staying because she fell in love and decided to start up her own company, Red Carpet Parties, 10 years ago.

But because of COVID-19, that industry was rocked. She was unable to plan for events when things were constantly being cancelled. 

“When I saw the competition on Facebook, I was just looking for something new to do,” she said. “I’ve never done anything like this online — I’ve done competitions before, and I’ve done well — but I’ve never done an internet competition … so I said, ‘What the heck,’ and went for it.”

As of Wednesday, Sept. 1, she was number two in her group. On Thursday, Sept. 2 voting closes, and if she makes it to the number one spot, she will be brought to the next round of competitions. 

She said that the contest includes dozens of women of all different ages. They were separated into several different groups, and as of this week, the winners of each group will go head-to-head for the final prize to be announced at the end of the month.

“I’m just moving along, trying to get those votes up,” she said. “It’s like pulling teeth, and I’m glad I’m not running for mayor because I don’t know what I do!” she joked.

But she likes the challenge and has always stepped out of her comfort zone for new things. 

“I’ve always jumped onto every opportunity,” she said. “You never know what doors are going to open up at any age. I tell people it doesn’t matter what age you are. Just go for it — you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Every day, people can vote for Adler to help her get closer to the prize. She said with the $40,000 prize, she’d donate a chunk of it to animal rescue.  

“My mother always taught me charity — the moment you get something you give it to somebody else first,” she said. “That’s what I want to do right now.”

A lover of butterflies, she’d also put the funds towards her Monarch Way Station to help keep the monarch population going. 

While voting for her group’s finalists ends Thursday, those who would like to support Adler’s competition can vote online at votefab40.com/2021/dani-adler.

Kathy McLeod retired back in 2013, but she still kept a tradition of mailing her former students a keepsake when it was their turn to graduate. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Kathy MacLeod taught in the Miller Place School District for 36 years. 

Mostly a fourth-grade teacher, she created years ago a project that would eventually become a tradition for her students and their families. 

“The students had to write a letter to themselves that I would save and mail to them when they were ready to graduate from high school,” she said. “And they were just adorable.”

MacLeod would have the students write to their future selves about their families, hobbies, what they learned in school and what they thought they’d be doing as a senior.

Ariel’s self portrait.

“Sometimes, they were very funny, like, I’ll be driving a Lamborghini or, you know, I’ll be playing Major League Baseball,” she said. “And some would be more realistic, saying that I’ll be driving a car or working at McDonald’s.”

The first batch of letters had to wait eight years to eventually be mailed out, with a reminder of the graduating year when they were to be dispatched. 

And the majority of the time, MacLeod said, the students forgot the assignment from their elementary school days. 

The Miller Place High School graduating class of 2021 was different, though, as this was MacLeod’s last batch of letters. 

In 2013, she decided to retire, but retirement didn’t mean stopping from sending out the last eight batches of letters her students wrote. Over the last eight years, she sent the envelopes back to them with copies of what the children wrote to themselves. 

Sadly, this was her last group to graduate.

“The parents love it,” she said. “They’re very emotional when their kids are getting ready to graduate, and it’s like a voice from the past.”

MacLeod is so devoted, she always finds a way to get the letter into the right hands — one former student she had to track down in Arizona, and the girl was thrilled. 

“Teaching there was the best job I could have had in the best school,” MacLeod said. “It really was a wonderful place to work.”

Along with the letter and the self-portraits she encouraged them to draw, MacLeod attaches a photo from the students’ fourth-grade class picture. The kids look different now. 

“I remember them like it was yesterday,” she said. “It’s so funny seeing them grown up.”

Of the class that has just graduated, the students recently received their letters that their previous teacher mailed out. 

Andrew’s self portrait.

Andrew Bova, 17, said the blast from the past was very different than what he previously remembered. 

“I wrote to myself that I’d be a professional Islander player,” he said. “Now I’m going to Emerson College for musical theater.”

Bova said it was a blast from the past and reading what he thought of his life when he was 8 years old was nostalgic. 

He said can’t thank her enough for this fun memory. 

“She’s by far my favorite teacher,” he said. “I really appreciate her.”

Ariel Martin, another student, said that her 8-year-old self thought she would have pink streaks in her hair and would be going to Harvard after high school.

She decided instead to Chapman University in California for film production. 

“I just want to give her a big ‘thank-you’ for holding onto these and sending them out to all of us,” she said. “To this day, she’s my favorite teacher.”

MacLeod said it’s bittersweet that she won’t have to head to the post office with a large envelope in 2022. 

Photo by Julianne Mosher

“I just wanted to remind them how proud I am of them, how creative and fun the class was,” she said. “But this class in particular, they were such a creative, loving bunch. It wasn’t an easy last year and a half, and I just think they came through with flying colors.”

The Pendergast family admires the new sign. Photo by Julianne Mosher

The corner of Grandview Boulevard and Lower Rocky Point Road in Miller Place will now have a sign saying Pendergast Path in honor of the street’s former resident and founder of ALS Ride For Life. 

Local officials, friends and family joined together on Monday, June 21, next to the street sign to remember Pendergast’s legacy and honor his efforts in the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — a degenerative neurological disease that ultimately leads to a loss of muscle control throughout the body, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Monday was Global ALS Awareness Day.

“What a beautiful day to have this event,” said Ray Manzoni, president of ALS Ride For Life. “We’ve got somebody up there keeping an eye on us.”

Chris Pendergast’s grandson had the honor of unveiling the new sign. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Pendergast died on Oct. 14, 2020, after a 28-year battle with the disease. His nonprofit has helped raise more than $10 million in research for ALS. 

During the annual Ride For Life, Pendergast was known to ride his motorized wheelchair hundreds of miles to raise funds and awareness of the disease. His longest ride was 350 miles in two weeks.

“He defied the odds in so many ways, his endurance was remarkable,” Manzoni said. “He was extraordinary.”

Pendergast, a former teacher in the Northport school district, was told he only would have a few years to live after his diagnosis. He beat the odds and spent over two decades educating people on the disease and devoting his life to helping others. 

His daughter, Melissa Scriven, told the crowd of people that the ALS Ride For Life board started in their house on Grandview Boulevard. Team meetings were held in the kitchen, and the dining room became an office. In 1991, the family moved to the street and two short years later he was diagnosed.

“Our lives were forever changed — dreams for this new house and our new life were shot,” she said. “But only briefly … his positive attitude and optimism shaped how we would handle this ALS diagnosis. We were a team and we’re going to live with this disease — and live we did.”

Scriven said her father adored this house. 

“It’s quite fitting that he lived on Grandview Boulevard,” she said. “My dad would for sure say that he was blessed with a grand view of the goodness of humanity, of the loyalty of friends, of the generosity of strangers and the grandest view of all, the love of his family.”

As part of a street renaming, the Town of Brookhaven requires an individual to have provided the town with an outstanding service. 

And that he did. 

Councilwoman Jane Bonner embraces Christine Pendergast. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) presented the Pendergast family with a proclamation from the town shortly before the curtain unveiled Pendergast Path. Bonner said she had a special connection to the day’s event. 

“My grandfather died from ALS in the early 1980s, long before anybody really knew what ALS was,” she said. “I have learned so much about ALS because of Chris, because of this organization and because of the people with ALS that really don’t ever let you forget that this disease should not be forgotten, that we need a tremendous amount of research dollars.”

She added there is a lot of time to make up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“People need to be as generous as possible because there are many more people suffering and so we must find a cure,” she said. “And I can think of no person that deserves this honor more than Chris.”

Pendergast’s wife, Christine, was honored to have her husband’s name across the green sign. 

“I think he would be grinning ear to ear,” she told TBR News Media. “He took his ALS bike to the streets, literally, and we now have a street named after him. I think it’s a very fitting way to honor him and his work.” 

Photo from MPSD

Graduating with the class of 2021 of Miller Place High School, Kyla Bruno will be leaving as valedictorian, finishing at the top of her class with a weighted GPA of 102.34. Kyla plans to attend college at Northwestern University and will be majoring in mathematics, with a minor or double major in music. 

Photo from MPSD

Throughout her high school career, Kyla has accomplished a tremendous amount academically. She was awarded AP Scholar with Honors, Performing Arts Teeny Award for Outstanding Instrumentalist, and was recognized by the College Board National Hispanic Recognition Program.

Consistently achieving honor roll while enrolled in all AP and honors courses, Kyla has also received Special Recognition of Excellence in language arts, geometry, Spanish, and orchestra. She was additionally named an All-State Musician. 

Not only is Kyla academically gifted, but is a very active athlete as well, earning the Scholar-Athlete Award for tennis and track. She is a member of both the spring and winter track teams and was recognized as All-League and All-County on her tennis team.

Leaving with a 101.30, the second-highest GPA in the Class of 2021, Jason Cirrito was named salutatorian at Miller Place high school.

Jason was notably awarded for his academic excellence, but also had a big involvement in his community. He achieved High Honor Roll for every marking period since 9th grade and received awards for Advanced Placement Scholar with Honors and the Geometry Honors Award.

He was also given the Outstanding Acts of Kindness Award for helping his classmates and community members without expecting anything in return. 

Spending his time at the Port Jefferson Library, Jason helped coordinate events and also served as the assistant coach for the Miller Place Parent Teacher Organization basketball team. 

To add to his stellar academic and community service achievements, Jason was known as an involved student-athlete. He was a member of the cross-country team, soccer team, and the winter and spring track teams. 

This fall, Jason will be attending Vassar College and plans to major in math education and become a secondary math teacher.

PJMS Principal Dr. Bob Neidig, Mike Viviano, Gianna Viviano, Teresa Viviano, social studies teacher Phil Gianussa, PJ Rotary President Rob Dooley; Rotarian Dennis Brennan. Photo from the Port Jefferson Rotary

On Tuesday, June 8, at their first “in-person only” meeting at Cafe Spiga in Mt. Sinai in more than a year, Port Jefferson Rotary members celebrated the opportunity to see new and old faces “live” once again. 

They also welcomed and honored this month’s Port Jeff Middle School Most Motivated Student, 7th grader Gianna Viviano. 

Gianna was accompanied by her parents, Mike and Teresa Viviano, as well as Port Jefferson school officials.

A true role model for her peers, Gianna is quite inquisitive, thoughtful and engaged. A talented writer, this 7th grader recently had an entry of hers selected to be published in the high school’s literary magazine. 

Despite this especially difficult school year, Gianna not only possesses a unique excitement and enthusiasm for learning, but she is a voracious reader, and she has shared her opinions both respectfully and passionately. What’s more, she was the star of the Middle School’s recent Drama Production, “Junie B. Jones,” playing Junie, a feisty, funny six-year-old whose outspoken honesty gets her into trouble at school and home. 

Memorably Junie says, “A little glitter can turn the whole day around.” Principal Bob Neidig said that though a stretch for Gianna to play a part like this, it demonstrates how far she will go to entertain all at the school. He closed his remarks by calling Gianna, “the glitter making the days, especially the ones this year, better!” 

Suffolk champions. Bill Landon photo

With the Suffolk County class A softball championship title up for grabs, Miller Place forced a game three with Bayport where both teams were tied at 1-1 after three innings. The Panthers turned the tide in the bottom of the 4th when Julia Lent with bases loaded, laid off a pitch for the walk to plate Sydney Stocken for the go ahead run. Madison Power’s bat spoke next with a base hit driving in two runs to make it a three-run lead. Jessica Iavarone the starting pitcher stepped into the batter’s box and ripped a shot to deep right for a base clearing standup RBI triple to put her team out front 7-1.

Bayport managed a run in the top of the 5th but their bats went silent the rest of the way. 

 Photos by Bill Landon 

Olivia Almodovar takes a cut for the Panthers in an extra inning 2-0 victory in the class A semi-final game against Islip. Photo by Bill Landon

It was a pitching duel in the Suffolk class A semi-final June 14 when Miller Place No. 2 hosted Islip No. 3 where the bats were muzzled most of the way that resulted in a scoreless game through seven innings. Miller Place pitcher Jessica Iavarone found herself in trouble in the top of the 8th of the extra inning game, when Islip loaded the bases with no outs.

If the threat of a possible season ending base hit rattled Iavarone she didn’t show it and appeared to throw harder under the pressure. The senior fanned the next three batters to retire the side unscathed.

When asked how she handled a possible season ending inning Iavarone said she felt little pressure. “Honestly what calms me is to just think that nobody’s on the field and there’s no one on base and to pitch how I know how to pitch”, the senior said. “I just threw as hard as I {could}.”

After a Julia Lent base hit, Madison Power laid down a perfect bunt moving Lent over to second and beat the throw to first. Amelia DeRosa stepped into the batter’s box who battled at the plate before the junior ripped a rope to straight away center for the game winning hit and was immediately mobbed at second base.

DeRosa described her game winning double this way, “I saw {the pitch} I hit it in the gap, I had a good feeling I felt confident who was on base,” the junior said. “I felt really good and the nerves just washed away.”

The Panthers are back home June 15 for a best of three game series against No. 5 Bayport. Game time is 4 p.m.

Photos by Bill Landon 

By Diana Fehling

It’s been a home-run of a season for Miller Place High School. The boy’s baseball beat Half Hollow Hills West 2-0 at their game on June 10. 

Kai Loftin pitched a 4-hit shutout and had the winning RBI.  

The win advanced Miller Place into the season’s playoffs. 

Photos by Diana Fehling