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Hundreds of people gathered at Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks for a solemn memorial program, in memory of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives that day – there in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, PA.
The emotional program included reading the names of the 9/11 victims in the surrounding area, a video montage of the attacks and the aftermath accompanied by Alan Jackson’s song “Where Were You When The World Ceased to Turn”, as well as the celebration of the Homage in the Light, shining against the late summer evening sky.
The Middle Village 9/11 Watch Committee has held a candlelight vigil and memorial service at Juniper Valley Park for 20 years. The first vigil took place a few days after the worst terrorist attack on American soil and drew 6,000 people.
Organizers and elected officials had an important message: never forget that fateful day, which has become synonymous with sacrifice, sorrow, heroism and unity.
Frank DeBiase, chair of the 9/11 Vigil Committee, noted that the committee, which includes a group of volunteers from Middle Village and Maspeth, invited 13 local schools to participate in a 9/11 essay contest.
“Only one school submitted applications,” said DeBiase, a retired corrections captain and Ground Zero first responder.
He then introduced Melissa Rojas, senior from Christ the King High School, who took first place with her essay “A Tragedy Without End”.
Queens Deputy Chairman Rhonda Binda said the legacy of the victims lives on in their families and it is the duty of New Yorkers to honor them.
“And another way to honor them is to celebrate our freedom as Americans and to keep this city and this borough open and embracing diversity,” Binda said.
MP Grace Meng expressed her gratitude to the volunteers who organized the memorial and to the families who brought to the vigil young people who were either too young to remember 9/11 or who were not even born when it happened. has occurred.
“I say this more as a mom than an elected official,” Meng said, urging schools across the country to teach on the darkest day in US history. “So that we can make sure our future generations of young people know and understand what happened that day, this should not be a single school in our district submitting essays to talk about and remember 9/11 . “
Assembly member Brian Barnwell, who lost his cousin FDNY firefighter Edward White on September 11, pointed out that some, sadly, had not paid much attention to the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
“It’s our job to make sure the next generation of Americans know what happened and why it happened,” Barnwell said.
Assembly member Andrew Hevesi told the story of a neighborhood kid who was “the best athlete” he has ever seen play in any sport and “the nicest guy”.
Hevesi’s childhood friend worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, who occupied floors 101 through 105 of the North Tower. He perished with more than 650 of his colleagues.
“I keep coming back to this day because the feeling is sadness. But that feeling is also combined with anger, still angry that Americans have been attacked, ”Hevesi said. “I am grateful to live in the greatest country in the history of the world and to celebrate and come back here every year to remember what happened 20 years ago.”
Councilor Robert Holden recalled the first vigil on September 16, 2001 and how proud he was of the 6,000 community members who united at Juniper Valley Park. He said some marched to FDNY Squad 288 / Hazmat 1 fire station in Maspeth, which lost 19 firefighters on September 11.
In 2013, community members asked the Landmarks Preservation Commission to mark the fire station, but were turned down due to policies, Holden said.
“I said, ‘silly’… we’re going to fight,” Holden said, sharing that he would introduce legislation to city council to mark the fire hall dedicated to the 19 firefighters.
Holden said it was the duty of those who lived through the tragedy to tell the next generation about the lives lost on September 11 and the number of devastated families.
“So even if I have to introduce legislation to make it mandatory in New York City public schools, I will. It has to be taught, ”Holden said. “That’s what you should do.”
State Senator Joseph Addabbo said it was important to remember those who perished on September 11, those who die of September 11-related illnesses and the heroic efforts of those who saved thousands of lives That day.
He recalled that more than 10,000 construction workers in the greater New York area have joined the FDNY and the NYPD to help search for victims and survivors.
“I like to think of 9/12 the next day because we started to rebuild. We weren’t afraid. We haven’t backed down, ”Addabbo said. “We got together with those who lost others and helped them rebuild their lives. “
He urged everyone to rediscover the spirit of unity that everyone felt after the terrorist attacks.
“We started with the flag and patriotism, and therefore in honor of those we have lost, in honor of those who have been saved and in honor of first responders and veterans, may we working together as a community, ”Addabbo said.