Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino welcomed a thousand guests to the township’s beach at Point Lookout as he unveiled a huge and emotionally impactful 9/11 Memorial Park. The town’s September 11th program included a host of elements, and the facility evidenced a variety of features that combined to create a meaningful memorial salute to those who were killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as well as those who have subsequently died of 9/11-related illnesses.
“One of the first priorities I had when I became Supervisor was to build a permanent 9/11 memorial,” stated Santino. “Having it on the beach at Point Lookout, the same place where hundreds of people assembled in the wake of the terrorist attacks, makes it uniquely compelling.”
The Supervisor detailed the features of the permanent memorial park that were completed days before the sunrise ceremony, which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. The monument includes an elevated walkway with a directional plaque that points to the site where the once majestic Twin Towers stood. The edifice of the elevated walkway features granite memorial plaques with the names of the 3,000 victims of the terrorist attacks. There are also plaques with the names of those who have died of 9/11-related illnesses – a unique and appropriate feature. The names of individuals who will die of 9/11-related illnesses in the future will be added every year. A 30-foot-long beam from the World Trade Center is erected on the west side of the memorial. Other features include a flag plaza with the U.S. and town flags, and a memorial table (72”x72”) inscribed with the Walt Whitman poem “On the Beach at Night”. A “pass through” under the raised walkway provides views of the beach and ocean. Finally, the east side of the Memorial Park features the “Survivor Tree,” which was grown from a seedling from the only surviving tree at Ground Zero (a Callery pear tree).
The total project cost was $1.3 million, and construction began in May. The engineer on the project is Cashin Associates, and the construction company executing the work is the Woodstock Construction Group.
The theme of the town’s 9/11 ceremony focused around preserving the legacy and memory of the heroes of 9/11. Indeed, Santino indicated that a key motivating factor in his quest to build the monument park was to educate young people who were not yet born when the terrorist attacks occurred. Additionally, the Supervisor observed that the families of the victims of 9/11 and all who were impacted by the attacks deserved a permanent memorial site for respectful reflection. Finally, he noted that so many of those who were killed on September 11th, and those who have subsequently died of 9/11-related illnesses were from the Town of Hempstead, making it uniquely appropriate for the township’s family to create a heartfelt tribute to them.
Hempstead Town has hosted Long Island’s largest 9/11 ceremony every year since the terrorist attacks. This year’s ceremony included remarks by MaryEllen McKee, the sister of hero firefighter Ray Pfiefer who died of a 9/11-related illness. Pfiefer was the driving force behind the Zadroga Act extension. The program also incorporated remarks by Robert Gies, the son of a hero firefighter who died on 9/11, Lieutenant Ronnie E. Gies. Two of Lt. Gies’ sons followed in their father’s footsteps, becoming FDNY firefighters.
The ceremony also included reflections on 9/11 by members of Long Island’s clergy, the unveiling of the memorial table, the communal recitation of “On the Beach at Night” and the placement of a memorial wreath at the monument. Guests were greeted by local fire department flag arches and musical performances by the Kellenberg Gregorian Consortium and various soloists.
“We will continue to gather every September 11th to remember the friends and family who were killed on that fateful day and those who have died of 9/11-related illnesses,” concluded Santino. “I am proud that the town now has a permanent September 11th memorial as an enduring tribute to the heroes of 9/11.”