The words “never forget” are emblazoned on flags, plaques and even the National Sept. 11 Memorial in downtown Manhattan.
But to Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi, remembering the infamous terrorist attacks should not mean getting bogged down in the past.
“This day is a day to set the future and go forward,” Longobardi told a crowd of about 100 gathered at the village’s 9/11 memorial on Monday, the 16th anniversary of the attacks. “Let us not take what happened to these individuals and let it be in vain.”
Floral Park’s annual remembrance is held in front of a relic of the World Trade Center buildings that were destroyed by two hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001. The twisted steel beam is anchored in a stone pedestal bearing the names of the 11 village residents killed in the attacks.
The ceremony is “a celebration of the lives we lost” and a chance to honor the sacrifice they made, Longobardi said.
“Let’s make sure that we take what they sacrificed and what they did in their lives, and turn it into the good for others,” Longobardi said.
Among those gathered near the relic were Denise Dellacorte, a Floral Park-Bellerose school board trustee, and her two grandchildren, 6-month-old Conor O’Donohue and 3-year-old Ryan O’Donohue.
Dellacorte has attended the ceremony since its inception, but the two boys were experiencing it for the first time.
“I hope they will realize that we have a spirit of community — not just in Floral Park, but all over the world — on this special day,” Dellacorte said. “And I hope that they will be so grateful for all that people contribute to make our homeland a wonderful place.”
The crowd fell silent when the bells at the Floral Park United Methodist Church tolled at 8:46 and 9:03 a.m., the times when planes struck the two World Trade Center towers. Village trustees read the names of Floral Park’s 11 victims after the first bell.
But music punctuated the rest of the ceremony. A choir sang “America the Beautiful” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth” after the names were read, and “Amazing Grace” was played on the bagpipes after the second bell.
Katie Hayes, a lifelong Floral Park resident, opened the ceremony with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and closed it with “God Bless America.” On occasions like 9/11, music “expresses things that words just can’t,” she said.
“I think it both soothes people and allows people to reflect,” Hayes said.
Hayes was sitting in art class at Floral Park Memorial High School when the attacks happened. She remembers setting her colored pencils down in shock after learning what happened, “not even really knowing what it meant, but knowing it meant something huge.”
Dellacorte was also at a school, running a meeting as the John Lewis Childs School PTA president. “You couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of what was happening,” she said.
Hayes said she remembers hearing bagpipes for the funeral of Keith Fairben, a New York-Presbyterian Hospital paramedic from Floral Park who was killed on 9/11. She said she didn’t know Fairben personally, but has been told he was a “phenomenal human being.”
“It’s something that’s been with me forever, and I think of his family when I hear the music and how they’ve gone on and still served the community while they have this heartbreak, and how amazing that is,” Hayes said.