Saddle Rock Bridge 9/11 ceremony honors those who lost lives

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Members of the Great Neck community gather at the Saddle Rock Bridge to honor those whose lives were taken on 9/11 (Photo by Karen Rubin)

On Saddle Rock Bridge, with a view of the New York City skyline where the World Trade Center once stood, about 100 people attended a ceremony last Wednesday in Great Neck to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11.

They listened to prayers and remarks from several public figures on the anniversary of the terror attacks.

While some drove to bridge, others congregated in the lobby of Temple Israel and took the walk down Old Mill Road to meet at the bridge, according to resident Marc Katz.  Members of Temple Israel and Temple Beth-El attended, as well as members of the Alert Fire Company and Vigilant Fire Department.  One side of the bridge was blocked off by Nassau County police, the other side by Kings Point officers.

A handful of elected officials made an appearance, such as New York Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso (D-Port Washington),  Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey (D-Manhasset), along with others.

The service was conducted by Rabbis Howard Stecker and Daniel Schweber of Temple Israel.  The guest speaker was John Motchkavitz, a member of the Alert Fire Company, and a first responder on 9/11 working in rescue and recovery efforts.  

Motchkavitz is also the head of the business and technology department at Great Neck South High School, and he shared some words that he had told his students.

“If you look at things one way, you can say that time goes by so fast,” Motchkavitz said. “It’s so hard to believe that it has already been 18 years since these attacks happened.  But another way to look at it is that time goes by so slowly, that there isn’t a day where myself nor any of the men at the fire station don’t recall what we went through that day.”

The ceremony continued with Motchkavitz speaking of members of the department whose lives were affected by 9/11-related illnesses, leading into remembering all the lives lost in the attacks, including that of Jonathan Ielpi.  Ielpi, a former member of the Vigilant Fire Department and Great Neck resident, has his high school hockey jersey still on the side of the bridge. 

Stecker concluded the ceremony with a traditional Jewish prayer, then asked everyone to stand, turn and face the city skyline to join in singing “America the Beautiful.”

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