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Rockty Point VFW

Joe Cognitore with members of the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249. Photo from Joe Cognitore

 Commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11 has had a big impact on Joseph Cognitore, a Rocky Point resident who is  commander of the local VFW Post 6249. 

On the day of 9/11, he was working at the Coca-Cola distribution center in Hauppauge when he and his co-workers heard two planes had hit the World Trade Center towers. 

At first thought, he figured it was something similar to the Empire State Building accident in 1945 — when a B-52 bomber crashed into the building in thick fog.

As the September 2001 morning progressed, TV announcers said loud and clear that this was an attack on America. Feelings of anxiety, frustration and pent-up emotion overcame Cognitore, bringing back his memories of Vietnam.

“I vividly remember the quiet and serenity of all the people just milling around, not knowing what to do,” he said. “The whole area was quiet and full of blank stares and disbelief.”

Some of Cognitore’s high school friends who worked in the World Trade Center, as well as fire department personnel, perished in the attacks. 

One of his friends with whom he graduated and played ball with, Peter Ganci, held the rank of chief of department for the New York City Fire Department and was last seen on the day of 9/11. 

“I didn’t know it at the time, but later that day I found out he had passed,” Cognitore said. “When the towers fell he was with Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He told the mayor to go one way, but he wanted to go back with his men the other way, and that’s when he perished.”

As a veteran who works on legislative committees for the VFW on state and national levels, Cognitore has been pleading with U.S. Congress to pass the defense budget. However, he said the budget never gets passed or is pushed to the side.

“We need to get better security and better defenses, and I’m not confident that’s happening,” he said.

Despite this obstacle, Cognitore believes it’s extremely important for younger generations to learn the history of 9/11. Every year he makes an appearance at Rocky Point High School, along with other guests, to discuss the tragic day as well as honor servicemen.

“I know when I was in high school and went to assemblies we laughed and giggled and didn’t pay too much attention to what was going on,” he said. “The assembly they do at Rocky Point High School you can hear a pin drop. I mean the tension is there.”

When the commander was a child, his grandfather would take him to various monuments around Long Island to pay respects to America’s fallen heroes, and said this memory has stuck with him his whole life.

“I always remember going with my grandfather to monuments and it had such an impact on me as a child,” Cognitore said. “I think what my grandfather did with me should still carry over to other generations because it taught me about respect.”

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.


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.

Debbie Carpinone and her son Anthony Forte. Photo from Debbie Carpinone

By Kevin Redding

On what would have been Anthony Michael Forte’s 25th birthday Oct. 8, Debbie Carpinone stood over a cake decorated with a photo of her son and icing that spelled out “Happy Birthday In Heaven Anthony There’s A Light That Will Never Go Out” and led family and friends in singing to him before taking a brief moment to reflect and pray to herself.

All were gathered at VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point to honor and celebrate her son’s memory with live music, catered treats, a Chinese auction and raffle prizes for the 2nd annual Anthony’s Angels fundraiser.

For Carpinone — who lost Forte to a heroin overdose on May 2, 2015 — getting through this particular day without him is still a new challenge, but one that’s led her down a path of keeping active, doing good things for others and providing hope and charity to her community.

Local band Remedy plays old hits like ‘Fame’ by David Bowie during the second annual Anthony’s Angels fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding
Local band Remedy plays old hits like ‘Fame’ by David Bowie during the second annual Anthony’s Angels fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

Last year, in the wake of Anthony’s death, she set up Anthony’s Angels to help raise money for Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson, various treatment programs, as well as establish a scholarship in his name at Mount Sinai High School, which is geared toward someone who has overcome a personal obstacle. Carpinone, who works as a teaching assistant for the Mount Sinai Elementary School, was able to give $1,000 to Matthew Kirby this past June and help him pay for college in Rhode Island.

“Anthony always wanted to go to school, but due to his addiction, he never got the chance to go,” Carpinone said. “He just was always in and out of rehabs, and sober houses.”

Now, she continues to keep herself busy in different ways, by striving to do something good in his memory, like the scholarship.

“Matthew [Kirby] was pretty much one of the only kids who really wrote from the heart, about losing his grandparents, and he has suffered a lot of loss as far as family members … and I felt connected to his family just by reading his essay,” she said. “I’m glad I went with my gut and chose him, because he’s just a wonderful kid.”

She wanted this year’s fundraiser to benefit the next scholarship and hopes that she’ll be able to give it out to two students in 2017. Because the event happened to fall on his birthday this year, she also wanted to throw a party he would’ve appreciated.

“Debbie is channeling her grief in such a positive way, and I just find everything she’s doing to be so good for her body, mind and soul. Her situation touched my heart.”

—Kelly Amantea

“He loved all the old Hollywood legends,” said Carpinone, who filled the room with huge cutout standees of Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn, and stocked the tables with photos of icons like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. She said that caterer Crazy Crepe Café even provided an Elvis-themed peanut butter and banana crepe.

“Everybody just came together, and it’s so nice to know that there’s still good people out there, and people that still want to do good things,” the mother said.

Long tables were covered with over 100 prizes from local businesses and attendees, including a $25 gift card to Setauket Pastaria, a glam girl Marilyn basket, a Mercedes Benz donation and a kid’s pedal car.

As local band Remedy played high-energy covers of David Bowie, The Knack and Weezer, pictures of Forte in what appeared to be his happiest days adorned the tables and walls, and had many reminiscing about him.

“He was a very special person,” said Dolores Franklin, Forte’s aunt. “He was very charismatic, talented. I can’t say enough. He loved to act, liked to do skits … he brought us a lot of laughter. And no matter how awful you looked, he’d always tell you you were beautiful. He made you feel good.”

She said that there was certainly a big hole in the family’s hearts, having lost such a huge presence.

“I just wish that one of us could’ve gotten through to him, and could’ve let him know how special he really was,” she said, “because I don’t think he knew how great he was.”

Debbie Carpinone reads off raffle winners at the Anthony’s Angels fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding
Debbie Carpinone reads off raffle winners at the Anthony’s Angels fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

Carpinone wants to get rid of the stigma around heroin and those who get hooked on it, because her son didn’t look like a drug addict, didn’t come from a terrible family and wasn’t a bad person. As overdoses become more and more common across Long Island, it’s become very clear that drugs don’t know who you are, and addiction can latch itself onto anybody — a fact that more and more people are becoming aware of.

“Debbie’s son’s death was my first eye-opening experience to heroin,” said Kelly Amantea, Carpinone’s friend. “It never touched my life, my family, or my heart prior to that. It just never affected me. I knew nothing about it. I lived in my own little drug-free bubble.”

She said for her, a lot of awareness came out of the tragic event.

“I do find that the community as a whole is starting to wrap its arms around this,” she said. “I’m hoping that there’s more attention paid to this because it’s affecting more and more families — more and more lives — and I want the cure and the remedy to catch up with the epidemic … they’re so far apart right now.”

Amantea added she’d never been to a funeral like Forte’s before and believes every middle school kid should be dragged to a funeral of someone who died this way, to open children’s eyes to the harsh reality.

“It rocked me to my core and I don’t think these kids really understand what it’s like for the families that have to carry this,” she said. “That drug is Russian roulette. Debbie is channeling her grief in such a positive way, and I just find everything she’s doing to be so good for her body, mind and soul. Her situation touched my heart.”

The fundraiser raised $220 for Hope House Ministries and $1,500 for the scholarship.