Before the Rev. Victor Lewis became senior pastor at Friendship Baptist Church in Roslyn Heights, he watched Flight 11 and Flight 175 crash into the World Trade Center from his desk at Cantor Fitzgerald Wealth Partners 16 years ago.
“On that day and in the weeks that followed, I saw the best of humanity across this region. I saw the love poured on our city because for a time, everyone was black,” Lewis said. “When I say everyone was black, I mean it. Everyone who was in that vicinity was black. There was no white, there was no Asian, no European, no African and no Middle Eastern. I am referencing the ashes and the soot that was stuck to the faces of every individual who was down in that vicinity, and they were all black.
“Nobody looked at anyone any different than as someone they could help, someone they could assist, someone they could encourage along the way as we prayed we would get back home to our families and friends safely.”
Lewis was not the only civilian-turned-minister at the Town of North Hempstead’s 16th annual Sept. 11 memorial service Monday at Mary Jane Davies Green in Manhasset.
The Rev. Donna Marie Field of Community Reformed Church in Manhasset was a nurse in 2001.
She had finished a night shift hours before the attack and said went home to sleep, unaware of what was coming hours later. Field said she awoke to 16 voicemails, mostly from her nurse manager begging her to come back to work.
“When I walked back into the hospital, it was a completely and totally different atmosphere,” Field said. “There was no arguing coworker with coworker. There was no sniping as to who got the best district in the shift. There was no this patient is this or this doctor is that. There was an air of collaboration that had a solemnity behind it that I can never, ever, ever describe.”
Speakers at the ceremony stood feet from the town’s permanent memorial, a plaque of the 56 names of those from the town who died in the Twin Towers attacks alongside a piece of twisted metal from one of the towers, moved from it’s home outside the board room in Town Hall for the occasion.
During the memorial, two moments of silence — one at 8:46 a.m. and one at 9:03 a.m. — occurred along with a rifle salute from the Albertson VFW Post 5253 members and a wreath presentation by the Port Washington Fire Department.
North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink said he spent the last week taking stock of his experiences 16 years ago and said for him, the memories are as sharp as ever.
“To me, 16 years feels like yesterday, but 16 years represents nearly an entire generation of Americans, a generation of our children and our grandchildren,” Wink said. “A generation that’s seen more than its share of terror and far too many examples of man’s seemingly endless capacity to inflict inhumanity upon others. For those of us who relive the shock and pain of Sept. 11 when we join together at ceremonies like this, we strive to come to term with our memories, but for an ever-increasing number of memories, Sept. 11 is not a memory — it’s history.”
Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth echoed Wink’s message, weaving pieces of former United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ “The Names,” written in 2002 about the 2,753 Americans who died in the attacks in Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.
“Many of those children are now teenagers, and we have an obligation to ensure they also know the names of those who were taken from us,” Bosworth said. “‘So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.’ Let us remember them all.”
Wink said though younger Americans have no memories of the attacks, many of their lives have been shaped by the history.
“Sept. 11 is a part of everyone who is among this newest generation of Americans, but not because it changed them in some ways like it changed all of us, but rather Sept. 11 has defined the world that they came into, the world they find themselves in today,” Wink said. “It’s incumbent upon us to help this generation understand how Sept. 11, 2001, came to define their world. Not in an effort to foment hate, but to recommit to persevering in the face of hate.
“In the end, remembering those we lost and how we continue on in their memories may be the greatest legacy that we can bestow on this next generation and on future generations to come.”