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september 11 memorial

Anthony Rotoli Jr., left, and Larry Johnston, right, holding a piece of steel recovered from Ground Zero. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America Vigiano Brothers Lodge 3436 held a memorial service at Harborfront Park on Sunday, Sept. 11, to honor two brothers who lost their lives on 9/11.

The Sons and Daughters of Italy is a nationwide Italian American fraternal organization. Lodge 3436 comprises nearly 90 members from communities throughout the area, such as Port Jefferson, Mount Sinai, Miller Place and Stony Brook. 

Anthony Rotoli Jr., president of the lodge, explained the intent of the memorial service. For lodge members, it is an annual reminder of the sacrifices and heroism of first responders who risked their lives in the line of duty. It is also a way to honor the many lost on that fateful occasion.  

“Every year, we do this memorial and it’s uplifting,” he said. “It’s something that we look forward to every year, though with a heavy heart.”

The lodge was instituted in 2008 and named in honor of two brothers killed on 9/11: John and Joseph Vigiano. Rotoli considers the example of the Vigiano brothers a source of pride and inspiration for the members.

“We take that name with pride — pride to us because they sacrificed for this country,” the lodge president said. He added, referring to the memorial service, “It’s an uplifting [event] because we’re giving something back to the brothers.”

Larry Johnston, one of the attendees, served with Joseph Vigiano as a patrol officer. He remembers Joseph’s dedication to his profession and his commitment to public service.

“The guy was a cop’s cop,” Johnston said. “He was shot on three separate occasions and could have easily gone out on a disability. He decided that he didn’t want to do that and just wanted to continue on as a police officer.” He added, “Anything that he could put service into, he did. … His legacy is a legacy of service.”

Given the Vigiano family’s example of duty and sacrifice, Johnston believes the naming of the lodge is a fitting tribute. “It’s a great way to remember Joe and who he was, what he represented, what he brought down to his family and how they represent him,” he said. Brother John Vigiano was an FDNY firefighter.

By Daniel Palumbo

To mark the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Rocky Point Fire Department held a commemorative ceremony at its dedicated 9/11 Memorial Garden on the evening of Sept. 11. 

The fire department invited community members, firefighters from neighboring towns and Rocky Point High School student-musicians for an evening of solemn remembrance of the lives lost 21 years ago. 

Throughout the evening RPFD firefighters, including Chief of Department Fred Hess, took to the podium to thank the attendees for their support. In their speeches, they expressed gratitude and admiration for the many servicemen, servicewomen and civilians who made the ultimate sacrifice on that tragic day in history.

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Photo by Kimberly Brown

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and give remembrance to those whose lives were taken by the tragic events, Rocky Point High School welcomed veterans and survivors of the attack to speak to the senior class early Tuesday morning.

Students and teachers filled the auditorium as members from the Rocky Point VFW and Suffolk County Police Department were brought in to share their stories. 

The students they spoke to were not alive when 9/11 happened, which is why Social Studies teacher Rich Acritelli, who led the event, believed having an assembly on the matter was dire. 

“The big thing with this assembly is so we don’t forget,” Acritelli said. “It’s that there’s always that sense of respect towards the people that were lost and for the family members.”

Photo by Kimberly Brown

Guest speaker ESU officer Owen McCaffrey reflected on what it meant to be an American, and how helpful people were to each other during that tragic time. 

“Everyone was an American citizen,” McCaffrey said. “It didn’t matter what you looked like, the color of your skin or how you were dressed — everyone was working together because we were all American citizens.”

Suffolk County Acting Police Commissioner, Stuart Cameron recalled what it was like for the SCPD after the attacks had taken place, noting that the New York City Police Department even reached out to them for help. 

The SCPD sent out hundreds of officers to Ground Zero. 

“The most difficult aspect was that my phone was ringing off the hook with members of our department volunteering to go help their brother officers in New York City,” Cameron said.

Unfortunately, many of the officers who volunteered to help later passed due to medical complications, mostly being cancer related. 

“9/11 is not one day,” Cameron said. “It’s the days, weeks and months after it. You know the saying, ‘it’s the gift that keeps on giving,’ well 9/11 is the event that keeps on taking. It truly has taken away some of our greatest heroes.”

Photo by Kimberly Brown

Another guest speaker, Phil Alverez, whose brother, former NYPD detective, Luis Alverez passed from complications of cancer from working on Ground Zero. 

Phil said Luis wasn’t interested in people knowing his name, rather, he wanted people to know the message, which was to get victims and first responders assistance for the damaging health effects Ground Zero caused. 

“I was fortunate to have Luis around 15 years after the attacks, even though he was dealing with stage four cancer,” he said. “I got to hold him and hug him and tell him that I love him, and at the end of his life, I got to say goodbye to him — 3,000 families that day didn’t.”