As the sun was setting on Mineola Memorial Park last Wednesday, a color guard of the Mineola Fire Department solemnly marched into place, flanking the park’s Sept. 11 memorial with four American flags on each side.
In a last-minute change in the village’s memorial ceremony, Village of Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss led those gathered in the park in singing the national anthem.
That seemed appropriate since Strauss, a former member of New York Police Department Special Services, risked his life to save two transit cops buried in the smoldering rubble of the World Trade Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
Father Tomaz Gomide of Corpus Christi Church in Mineola, offered an invocation.
“We pray for those who gave their lives rescuing or trying to rescue those innocent victims of that terrible tragedy,” Gomide said. “We pray also for those who survived, for our nation and for every human being. Turn the hearts of those filled with hatred. May they understand that only love will change the world.”
Introducing the memorial ceremony’s principal speaker, Nassau County Clerk Maureen O’Connell, Strauss said O’Connell lost friends in the twin towers attack and had family members who subsequently searched through the rubble for survivors.
O’Connell spoke of the more than 3,000 Americans lost in the attack on the trade towers, including hundreds of first responders “performing their sacred duty protecting us, only to perish in burning and crumbling buildings.”
“Tonight we join in solemn prayer with all those who grieve for the families and children whose lives have been forever changed, all those whose sense of safety and security, especially our police and fire services, will be forever shattered,” O’Connell said. “America has stood up to enemies before, and we shall continue to do so again and again, for as long as it takes. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward with resolve to defend what is good and just in our world.”
She invoked the memory of Nassau County residents from Mineola, New Hyde Park, Floral Park, Garden City, Garden City Park, the Willistons and Albertson who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 attacks.
O’Connell also thanked Strauss for his “great sacrifice” in rescuing people that day.
“It’s an important day to pause and remember that our nation did not weaken but became stronger after the cowardly act of terrorism,” said Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
In his remarks, Strauss said, “September 11th has taught us about duty, self-sacrifice and love, for the police officers, firefighters and medical personnel who believed it was their duty to give up their lives, to sacrifice themselves and everything they held dear, so that strangers may live.”
He said she recalled attending many funerals after the attacks on the twin towers where, he said, “As we buried our friends we saw the unspeakable heartbreak of their families as husbands, wives and parents said their final heart-wrenching goodbyes.”
“For some, September 11th has left a gaping hole in their lives,” he said. “But that pain can be softened by the example of those who died and those who lived. Our first responders left us with a legacy of courage, honor and an incredible portrayal of selflessness the world had not yet seen. The families of those who lost loved ones have showed us how to press on in face of incredible pain and grief.”
Brother Thomas Cleary, president of Chaminade High School, offered a final prayer, concluding, “So many in our world have lost loved ones to terrorism and war, may their plight fill us with a longing for peace. Let us seek for understanding and reconciling.”
The ceremony ended with two members of Adolf Block VFW Post 1305, led by its commander, D-Day veteran Thomas Scardino, laying a memorial wreath at the Sept. 11 memorial. The memorial shone in the glow of the lights illuminating it as the village trustees, firefighters, military veterans and other village residents exchanged farewells and began leaving the park in the gathering dark.