This Sunday will mark 21 years since our nation was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. The fear that many of us felt on what was a beautiful late summer day and the compassion toward the victims and their loved ones will never be forgotten.
In addition to those who lost their lives on that tragic occasion, there were many who coordinated evacuation efforts and others who helped clean up the wreckage. It’s imperative for Americans to remember and honor these heroes, too.
Since 2001, more than 4,000 first responders, volunteers and survivors have died, according to the World Trade Center Health Program. More are suffering from cancers and illnesses that medical professionals believe are linked to working at Ground Zero. These reported deaths are over 1,000 more than the nearly 3,000 killed at the World Trade Center on the day itself.
The images of first responders trying to save people will be forever seared into Americans’ collective memories.
In the days and the months after 9/11, police officers, firefighters, tradespeople and more put their country and fellow humans first. They dedicated their time and energy to help New York City heal, rebuilding a hurt but unbroken nation, bringing dignity to those perished beneath the rubble. Their dedication allowed families and friends of the victims to properly grieve, and offered a sense of closure.
This was no ordinary work. It took immense courage and selflessness to confront the horrors of Ground Zero. The first responders and the rest put others before themselves, knowing that what they uncovered within the debris could not be forgotten.
And despite the trauma and shock in the days and weeks after the attacks, these brave souls likely never imagined the physical strain their work would have later in life.
They could not know that one day they would need additional health care because of their work, emotional support, and possibly financial assistance to help with mounting medical bills.
Ground Zero volunteers and workers, as well as 9/11 first responders, still need our help. Whether it’s listening to their stories, running an errand for them when they are sick or simply thanking them for their bravery, every bit means something.
When tragic memories become part of the distant past, for those who were removed from the scene, it’s easy to forget those who suffered the most or, even worse, ignore them. However, we should never forget the repercussions of 9/11 as our heroes continue to heal from it.
This 9/11, as we honor those lost on that tragic day, we must also remember the thousands on the scene in the months following who have died since then. They helped New York City recover, and their sacrifices should never be forgotten.
TBR News Media reached out to several local elected officials at the national, state and county level to let them share their thoughts as we head into another commemoration of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
*This post will be updated as more officials respond to our questions.*
Sen. Gaughran Shares his Thoughts on 9/11
State Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport) spoke with the TBR News Media on the eve of the 19th year since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
TBR: What do you think of when you reflect on 9/11 today?
Gaughran: When I think of 9/11, I obviously think of the heroism and the number of people I know who died. I certainly think of the police officers and the firefighters and the first responders who, without hesitancy, ran right into those buildings. Probably, some of them knew they were going to get killed. Maybe others figured it was another day when they were going to try to save people.
TBR: Who is the first person you think of in connection with 9/11?
Gaughran: Since I have been in the senate, the first person that comes to mind more than anyone else is Tim DeMeo, who is a constituent of mine, who was working for the Department of Environmental Conservation. He was in charge of dealing with oil spills, other contaminated sites and other hazardous clean ups. He was in Manhattan, driving over the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn, when the plane crashed. He got a call, “You should turn around, go back to Manhattan. This is something we’ll have to deal with.”
He turned around. The second plane crashed. He was permanently injured by debris. He stayed there. The next day and the next day, throughout [the clean-up] with all the other heroes…
He worked alongside police and firefighters and others working at the scene. He got very sick. He was not entitled to the same disability retirement benefits that everybody else was who was there. The way the state legislature wrote the bill, it was written so it would [be for] uniformed employees. He was not one of them. He was in the Department of Environmental Conservation. There were eight or nine other people like him. One of the first who came to see me in my district office, he came and told me a story … He said, “everybody else has been helped and I haven’t.”
He has significant medical issues. Attempts to pass a bill never went anywhere. I ended up writing a bill. We passed a bill last year, on 9/11. The Governor [Andrew Cuomo (D)] signed the bill.
It’s my proudest achievement so far. It didn’t help as many people as some of the other legislation I dealt with. I’m proudest of [that bill]. All these people were just as much heroes as everyone else. They were left out. New York was ignoring them.
TBR: How would you compare the heroism of first responders who raced to the burning buildings in Manhattan to the heroism of first responders and health care workers who have dealt with the ongoing unknowns and challenges from the pandemic?
Gaughran: I think it’s basically the same. A nurse or a doctor or a firefighter or an EMT who picks up somebody and puts them in an ambulance and brings them to the hospital are doing this knowing they could easily contract COVID and face the same issues that people they are trying to help are facing. The risks are the same. Running into a burning building is a more immediate risk. Dealing with a sick COVID patient, who may give you the disease, you’re facing a risk that potentially could cost you your life.
TBR: Do you think the divisiveness of today will ease during 9/11?
Gaughran: I would hope so. I remember on 9/11, watching George W. Bush at the site, that iconic image, with the bull horn and everything. That wasn’t that long after the election. My kids were young. They paid attention to everything. [They said] “dad, you didn’t vote for him.” This is a moment when we all have to stand behind him. It was a different world then. It’s hard to get people to agree to the same thing today. The president we have now is not going out of his way to try to create national unity.
I voted for Al Gore, but Bush did push for national unity after that, including visiting mosques, to make it clear that even though the terrorists who killed us were of a certain background, the folks who were living in the United States who happened to be Muslim are patriotic citizens like everyone else.
Rep. Lee Zeldin Shares his Thoughts on 9/11
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) responded to questions from TBR News Media on the eve of the 19th year since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
TBR: What do you think of when you reflect on 9/11 today?
Zeldin: The bravery, selflessness, fearlessness, and resolve of first responders, Americans, and our entire nation as a whole. When so many of us think about 9/11, we remember exactly where we were that day, when ordinary Americans became extraordinary heroes. We vividly remember what we heard, what we saw and how we felt. We remember first responders running towards danger at the greatest possible risk to their own lives.
While our memories of those moments have not faded, most importantly, neither has our resolve to rise stronger than ever before. New Yorkers remain committed, especially this year, to remember, honor and exemplify those Americans, who in the face of unconscionable evil, were the very best of who we are.
TBR: Who is the first person that comes to mind in connection with 9/11?
Zeldin: It’s difficult to choose just one person who comes to mind, but with the full permanent funding of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund signed into law last year, one of the first people who comes to mind is Luis Alvarez. While he wasn’t with us to witness the legislation he fought so hard for signed into law, he spent his final weeks with us continuing the fight until the very end so other 9/11 first responders wouldn’t have to.
TBR: In the context of the pandemic, is 9/11 overlooked?
Zeldin: Even in the midst of a pandemic, the commitment of New Yorkers to Never Forget, as we’ve seen with the Tribute in Light and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, underscores how dedicated New Yorkers are to the memory of those who died on that day and the so many who have passed since due to 9/11 related illnesses.
TBR: How would you compare the heroism of first responders who raced to the burning buildings in Manhattan to the heroism of first responders and health care workers who have dealt with the ongoing unknowns and challenges from the pandemic?
Zeldin: The same bravery in the face of clear danger and uncertainty that drove so many first responders on 9/11 to save countless lives at the expensive of their own, is the same bravery that has spurred so many of our local first responders and health care workers to serve throughout the novel outbreak of coronavirus.
17-foot long World Trade Center steel beam is focal point of monument remembering 9/11 victims
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By Sara-Megan Walsh
A 17-foot World Trade Center steel beam stand in Cold Spring Harbor, more than 35 miles from New York City, as a solemn reminder of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.
The Cold Spring Harbor Volunteer Fire Department officially dedicated its 9/11 memorial in Fireman’s Park, directly across from its headquarters at 2 Main Street, in a June 16 ceremony. More than 2,750 people were killed in the terrorist attacks, which includes 42 residents from the Town of Huntington.
“We will never forget those who perished on 9/11,” said Thomas Buchta, chairman of the fire department’s 9/11 Committee. “We will remember the sacrifices of those who rushed into the building to fight the fires, to rescue those who were trapped, and the thousands of people who simple went to work that morning and never returned home.”
“[Peter Martin] left behind his wife and two young sons, but he also left behind a legacy. ”
– Chad Lupinacci
Two fire department members, brothers Dan and John Martin, are following in the footsteps of their father, Peter Martin, who died on 9/11. Peter Martin served as a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York’s Rescue 2 in Brooklyn. He was 43.
“He left behind his wife and two young sons, but he also left behind a legacy,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “He loved his occupation and left a record of how many fires he fought over the years and many stories to tell.”
Martin also served as a volunteer firefighter in the Miller Place Fire Department, where he lived with his family at the time.
“While our grief recedes with time and our lives move on in different ways and directions, our resolve and the memories of love friends, co-workers and family will never wane,” said Cold Spring Harbor Fire Chief of Department Daniel Froehlich.
“Now 17 years later, think about whether we’ve slipped back into everydayness.”
– Tom Suozzi
Volunteers started constructing the memorial in the fall of 2017, featuring the nearly 18,000-pound beam in a shape reminiscent of a cross being lowered into the ground Sept. 9. Three saplings grown from offshoots of the Callery pear tree that endured the 9/11 attacks, called the “Survivor Tree,” were planted around the memorial with a plaque to explain their significance.
“When you look at it don’t forget the anguish and loss, but don’t forget about the other things this symbolizes, the strength and resilience of spirit,” said Greg Cergol, husband of Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) and master of ceremonies. “Those are the things that unite and define us as Americans.”
The keynote address was given by U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) who recalled his own desire to help in response to 9/11 in his position as mayor of Glen Gove and visit to ground zero. He questioned if Americans were losing the focus and sense of community that united them in the days that followed.
“Now 17 years later, think about whether we’ve slipped back into everydayness,” Suozzi said. “Love matters. Forgiveness matters. Our friends, our families and our communities matter.”
After a moment of silence was held for the 9/11 victims, the Martin family rang the bell of Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department five times each in four intervals. It’s part of a long-held tradition in the fire department that signals the last alarm of a firefighter who has answered his or her last call.
It was 15 years ago this week, Sept. 11, 2001, that Americans were putting their children on school buses and going about their daily routines when our nation was attacked. Terrorists boarded and later commandeered passenger planes that were fully loaded with fuel and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The terrorists that took over Flight 93 originally planned to strike the Capital building or the White House, but cries of “Let’s roll” rang out, and the passengers fought back against the perpetrators.
While Mike Piazza of the New York Mets was an exceptional baseball player, he also served as a leader for his team and the community, and even helped with a humanitarian drive that was based out of Shea Stadium to aid the recovery workers. He spoke about that day during his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech in July.
“To witness the darkest evil of the human heart and how it tore many loved ones from their families will forever be burned in my soul.”
— Mike Piazza
“Sept. 11, 2001 is a day that forever changed our lives. To witness the darkest evil of the human heart and how it tore many loved ones from their families will forever be burned in my soul,” the transplanted New Yorker, who was born in Philadelphia, said. “But from tragedy and sorrow came bravery, love, compassion, character and, eventually, healing. Many of you give me praise for the two-run home run on the first game back on Sept. 21 to push us ahead of the rival Braves. But the true praise belongs to police, firefighters, first responders, who knew they were going to die, but went forward anyway.”
The New York Yankees, who were in pursuit of another World Series title, visited firehouses, and players had tears in their eyes moments before they played in games.
Today, Americans are watching a hotly contested election. It was 15 years ago that many citizens put aside their political beliefs to be unified against a common enemy. Rescue crews traveled from all over the nation to head toward the remains of the World Trade Center, yellow ribbons were tied on trees across the United States and the undeniable will of our people was quickly demonstrated to the world. While it seems like yesterday that we watched these horrific events occur, there are current high school students that may have lost a parent that day. It is these boys and girls who were so young that they do not easily recollect their loved ones that were amongst the almost three thousand Americans killed tragically. This is not just another historic day to briefly remember — it is still with our citizens on a daily basis. Our children have lived under the heightened security at our airports, infrastructure centers like Pennsylvania Station and the George Washington Bridge, and during major sporting events. During every home game since 9/11, the New York Yankees invite veterans and rescue workers to be honored, as both teams line up to listen to “God Bless America.”
Our North Shore communities were a considerable distance from the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. But unflinchingly, local rescue and support workers from these towns traveled every day and spent hours away from their families to be at ground zero. May we never forget the sacrifices of members of these numerous agencies that are currently suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. It should also be remembered that while our North Shore towns are miles from the city, these communities and schools lost residents and graduates as a result of these acts of terrorism. Thank you to all our rescue workers and military branches that continue to protect the security and values of the United States, at home and abroad.
A piece of Tower 1 from the World Trade Center made its way to the Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department Wednesday to be used as a memorial for the community.
Thomas Buchta, a member of the department, said receiving the metal is important for many reasons.
Brothers Daniel and John Martin, of the Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department, lost their father, Peter C. Martin, a lieutenant in the Fire Department of New York’s Rescue 2 in Brooklyn, during the 9/11 terrorist attack.
“It’s significant for us and for the community to remember … what really took place that day and how many people sacrificed and are still to this day perishing because of illnesses that they received from the Trade Center,” he said. “It’s never-ending. [There are] so many to remember. We don’t ever want to forget what happened. We never want to see that happen again, so that’s why it’s important to remember what transpired that day so we keep vigilant and never let it happen again.”
Bob Thornton, another firefighter at Cold Spring Harbor, said the moment has been 14 years in the making.
“It all started back on 9/11, when we got the call to go in,” he said. “I was fortunate [enough] to be one of the 12 guys from our department that went in.”
Thornton said he and other firefighters were sent to Belmont Park to wait to go to Ground Zero, but after three days, they were discharged and sent home.
“It’s like the end of a dream,” he said of finally having the metal come to their community. “I’ve written letters for 14 years to try and get this metal. You kind of lose steam when nothing happens and the years roll by. Now we’re finally coming to fruition.”
Members of the department picked up the beam early Wednesday morning at The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey storage facility, transported it to the North Shore along with units from the New York City Police Department, the Suffolk County Police Department and others.
The steel beam is 17 feet long and 4 feet wide and weighs about 18,000 pounds. According to the department, it is one of the last remaining pieces of steel available for use as a memorial.
North Shore natives travel to Washington with hopes of swaying lawmakers to renew health care benefits
The 9/11 first responders who have fought for years to get health care support are heading back to Washington, D.C., in hopes of ushering in the renewal of the James L. Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act. And for one Nesconset resident, change cannot come soon enough.
Parts of the bill will expire next month, and other parts in October 2016.
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act would extend the programs of the original Zadroga act indefinitely. It was introduced to Congress in April and currently has 150 bipartisan co-sponsors.
“When this bill expires, our illnesses do not expire,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, in a phone interview. Feal, of Nesconset, has been walking the halls of Congress for the past eight years to help get this bill passed.
He is also a 9/11 first responder who worked on the reconstruction at Ground Zero, and lost half of his foot in the process. He suffered from gangrene, but he says his injuries “pale in comparison to other first responders.”
President Barack Obama signed the current Zadroga act into law in 2011 and established the World Trade Center Health Program, which will expire in October if not renewed.
The WTC program ensured that those whose health was affected by 9/11 would receive monitoring and treatment services for their health-related problems. It consists of a responder program for rescue and recovery workers and New York City firefighters, and a survivor program for those who lived, worked or went to school in lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Zadroga act also reopened the September 11th Victims Compensation Act, which allows for anyone affected to file claims for economic losses due to physical harm or death caused by 9/11. That will expire in October of next year.
Feal said he was asked by television personality Jon Stewart to come on “The Daily Show” in December 2010, but the Nesconset native said he did not want to leave the real legislative fight in D.C. Instead, he helped get four 9/11 responders to the Dec. 16, 2010, episode, who helped shed light on the ongoing battle these responders were dealing with in Congress.
“He was definitely one of the reasons the bill got passed,” Feal said of Stewart. Stewart accompanied Feal and many other first responders when they traveled to Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, Sept. 16, and took part in a mini rally.
The bill did not pass the first time it was presented to Congress back in 2006. A new version was drafted in 2010 and passed in the House of Representatives, but was having trouble getting through the Senate due to a Republican filibuster. The bill received final congressional approval on Dec. 22, 2010, and was enacted by the president on Jan. 2, 2011.
“As we get older these illnesses will become debilitating,” Feal said. “Not extending this bill is criminal. People will die without it. It’s a life-saving piece of legislation.”
Jennifer McNamara, a Blue Point resident and president of The Johnny Mac Foundation, is also actively involved in the fight to keep responders health costs covered. Her late husband, John McNamara, passed away in 2009 from stage IV colon cancer.
He was a New York City Firefighter and worked more than 500 hours at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 9/11. He worked with responders to get support for the Zadroga bill before he died.
“I made him a promise to continue to lend support to get this legislation passed,” Jennifer McNamara said in a phone interview. When her husband passed away, she said there weren’t as many responders getting sick as there are now. “People are dying more quickly, and more are getting diagnosed with cancers and other illnesses.”
The two big issues that McNamara said she feels need to continue to be addressed are monitoring these diseases and coverage of costs once someone is diagnosed. McNamara said she believes that if there were better monitoring programs earlier on, her husband could’ve been diagnosed before his cancer was stage IV, and he could’ve had a better chance.
“These people did tremendous things for their country,” McNamara said. “They shouldn’t have to guess about whether they are going to be taken care of.”
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.
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.
There was not a dry eye in the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park as the greater North Shore community came together to commemorate the lives of first responders who died from September 11-related illnesses.
The Nesconset park, at the intersection of Smithtown Boulevard and Gibbs Pond Road, was dedicated to victims of the horrendous terrorist attack and was crowded with hundreds of residents and families as 100 new names were added to its memorial wall on May 16.
“They are the reason we get out of bed,” said John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation, who acted as the master of ceremonies. “Thank you for allowing us to serve you.”
The wall already had more than 500 names, but those who spoke at the somber ceremony did so with the same sort of hurt felt when the attack first occurred in 2001.
“Like everyone here today, I pale in comparison to those who are going on the wall,” Martin Aponte, president of the park, said during the ceremony with a voice full of emotion.
The service featured various patriotic musical performances and words from elected officials.
“We thank you, from the bottom of our hearts,” said Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), “I commit to you that I will always stand watch over this park.”
Elected officials from neighboring towns joined the Nesconset community in honoring the lives of the 9/11 responders.
“We are truly a country of greatness and heroes,” said Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore).
Toward the end of the ceremony, the sons of fallen responders read the names that were going to be etched into the memorial wall. Each name was followed by a solemn bell toll.
Shortly after the names were all read, the sun started to show itself above the memorial park. Feal and those who played active roles in leading the ceremony made it very clear during and after the ceremony that they were grateful for the amount of people attending the ceremony despite the rainy weather.
“It’s humbling to see this many people come out,” Feal said. “For people to withstand Mother Nature truly showed the American spirit.”
Aponte said there are trees among the park’s foliage that are direct descendants of a tree that survived the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11. One of these trees was given to the Hauppauge Fire Department and another was also given to the Nesconset Fire Department as tokens of appreciation for each department’s contribution to the park.
A memorial ceremony is usually held, and is expected to continue to be held, every May during Memorial Day week and every September during the anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
The park has plans to eventually recognize and honor the service dogs that have passed away due to 9/11-related illnesses, Aponte said. There are also plans to place signs on the Long Island Expressway that lead travelers to the park from nearby exits but there are no definite dates at this time.
The park’s upkeep and development is dependent upon donations that can be made on the park’s website, which is at respondersremembered.com. The Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce is also going to be hosting a golf outing to benefit the park in early August.
“We built this park so history does not get distorted,” Aponte said.
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