9/11 ceremonies keep memory of attacks alive in Mineola, Williston Park

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A member of Cub Scout Pack 311 presents the American flag at Williston Park's 9/11 remembrance ceremony on Monday night. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

The weather on Monday was familiar to those on the North Shore who lived through the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“If you looked up at the sky 16 years ago and you looked up this morning, it was almost exactly the same,” North Hempstead Town Councilman Angelo Ferrara (R-New Hyde Park) said. “I didn’t see one cloud in the sky, which is exactly how it was on that fateful day.”

The pain that day inflicted on the region and the nation still lingers for many, including local officials who spoke at remembrance ceremonies in Williston Park and Mineola on Monday, the 16th anniversary of the tragedy that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Such ceremonies remain “part of the healing process” for everyone affected by the attacks and the families of those killed, Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar said. Six Williston Park residents died on 9/11, and some of their families were in the crowd at the village’s ceremony.

“We all remember the beauty of that morning, and will never forget the horror that followed,” Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said at his village’s ceremony

Strauss was an NYPD officer on 9/11 and helped rescue two Port Authority police officers from the rubble of the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) was close to the attacks herself — she was working in downtown Manhattan for the financial firm Goldman Sachs at the time.

“I was one of the lucky ones that day to get home,” she told a crowd of about 100 people in Mineola’s Memorial Park Monday night.

Phillips and others hearkened back to the spirit of unity that followed 9/11. It was a time that people let their “humanity and solidarity as Americans guide our words and actions,” Phillips said.

To Strauss, remembering that unity and patriotism is just as important as remembering the terror and violence that led to it.

“Remember how our village, our county and our country was unified in our resolve to help each other get through those most difficult times,” Strauss said.

But many people — about 40,000, Phillips said — continue to suffer from the harmful effects of the dust that swirled around the site, including many of those who helped with the rescue and cleanup efforts.

“We’re still losing souls, and we need to continue to mourn,” Ferrara said.

Phillips noted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed a bill expanding benefits for certain 9/11 first responders. The new law, which Phillips co-sponsored, entitles them to unlimited paid leave equal to their entire salary dating back to their diagnosis with a qualifying health condition.

Among those in the crowds Monday night were troops of Boy Scouts, many of whom were very young or not yet born when the attacks happened.

The community has an “obligation” to ensure those young people know the names of those who gave their lives to save others on 9/11, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in Williston Park.

“Seeing the young people in the audience reminds me that our future’s in good hands, and they will never forget,” Ferrara said.

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