John Chalker stood in formation with two other military veterans on Sunday at Manorhaven’s 9/11 ceremony.
Holding his rifle across his chest, Chalker and the rifle party’s other two members pointed their guns in the air, fired a blank round toward the sky and reloaded. They repeated this two more times.
The gun salute honored all who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks, especially the nine Port Washington residents who lost their life that day.
Chalker, a former member of the United States Army 69th Infantry Regiment, wearing the same uniform he had on when he and the rest of his unit responded to the attacks, said 9/11 is a day that will always stay with him.
The gun salute came at the end of the village’s ceremony, but throughout the program, residents and elected officials spoke about the importance of the day and the significance of always remembering the fallen.
Manorhaven Mayor Jim Avena, who had worked at Cator Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center prior to the attack on 9/11, said he knew at least 250 people who died that day.
“This tragic event left our country with emotional, physical and mental scars,” Avena said. “Events like these may shake us, but they will never dampen the American spirit to live in freedom and peace.”
Village Trustee Ken Kraft, a former Nassau County police officer, said he and his fellow officers wanted to drive into New York City to help out and aid the rescue, but because the city was closed off, they had to wait until the next day.
“We went the next day and we were able to pitch in and help,” Kraft said.
As part of a special unit, Kraft and his fellow officers were wearing all black.
But after spending time amid the dust and debris at ground zero, Kraft said, his unit’s clothing resembled sand.
“We were covered from head to toe in dust and dirt,” Kraft said. “Everyone was covered. The entire area was filled with dust flying around.”
After Avena’s granddaughter, Ella Rowe, sang the National Anthem, Assistant Chief Jeff Morris of the Port Washington Police Department addressed the audience, saying that the attacks’ effects are everlasting and ongoing.
State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton and Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio all spoke of the victims and first responders.
The ceremony took place outside of Village Hall near the newly erected 9/11 memorial statue, which contains a plaque honoring Port Authority Police Officer and Port Washington resident Antonio Jose Carrusca Rodrigues and the other residents who died on 9/11.
The statue and plaque were built by Boy Scout Kyle DiLeo as part of his Citizen in the Community merit badge.
DiLeo addressed the audience and reminded everyone of the importance of remembering the men and women who died.
Rabbi Alysa Mendelson from the Port Washington Jewish Center said she was on West 4th street at rabbinical school when the two planes crashed into the towers.
She and her peers waiting and prayed in a chapel, she said, hoping that their other friends would show up and be safe.
They later came, but Mendelson learned that her cousin, Scott Davidson, a firefighter, perished in the attacks.
“This is a personal day of mourning,” she said. “It’s a day to honor and remember those who died and served that day.”
“Although the battle against terrorism continues across the world, Americans remain strong and proud people,” Avena said.
The Port Washington residents who died on 9/11 were David Scott Agnes, 46; Antonio Jose Carrusca Rogrigues, 35; Neil James Cudmore, 38; Timothy C. Kelly, 37; Frederic Kuo, 53; Justin McCarthy, 30; Bart Jospeh Ruggieri, 32; Keiichiro Takahsahi, 53; and Dinah Webster, 50.