Our Views: On 9/11, the past lives on

Our Views: On 9/11, the past lives on

Novelist William Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Faulkner was not speaking of Sept. 11, 2001, but what he said resonated powerfully 15 years after the attacks on the Wall Trade Center and the Pentagon that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people that day.

This was very evident in the solemn ceremonies held across the North Shore this past week.

The participants included husbands and wives, sons and daughters, neighbors and friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives that day. All touched personally by tragedy that day.

In Port Washington, the ceremony was attended by Jim Avena, the mayor of Manorhaven who prior to the attack had been president of Cantor Fitzgerald, a financial firm that occupied floors 101 to 105 in the World Trade Center. Of the 960 Cantor Fitzberald employees, 658 were killed. Avena estimated that he knew 250 of the company’s employees at the time of the attack.

“I attended approximately 48 memorial services and would have attended more if I could have,” Avena said.

In Manhasset, the town held a ceremony in Mary Jane Davies Green across from the LIRR parking lot where cars unclaimed by owners later in the early evening of 9/11  and the next day told of their loss.

In Williston Park, the village held its annual ceremony at a Little League field joined by Little Leaguers and Boy Scouts who not born when the towers collapsed hearing of that day from those of were.

In Great Neck, Speaking from a bridge in Saddle Rock from which residents had viewed the cloud rising from where the Twin Towers stood, former Congressman Gary Ackerman recalled a day of shock and horror that he said shook Americans view of the world.

“It was sort of an out-of-body experience watching it, something that you were seeing but really couldn’t process, really couldn’t understand what was happening,” Ackerman said. “What could this be? Is it for real? You couldn’t get your mind around it. It was so colossal, so catastrophic.”

In events in New Hyde Park and Mineola, Scott Strauss, corporate director of security at Northwell and the mayor of Mineola, talked of how he had responded while working as a member of the New York Police Department’s Emergency Services Unit on 9/11. The story of his heroic descent into the rubble to help rescue two police officers trapped in the burning rubble was graphically retold in Oliver Stone’s film, “World Trade Center.”

Stauss also addressed the ongoing toll taken on first responders, many of whom have grown ill or died from the toxin-filled air they breathed during their rescue efforts.

“The fact is that 9/11 is not over,” Strauss said. “Time may pass, people may move on, but first responders will bear witness to the fact that, for a variety of reasons both physical and emotional, 9/11 is not over.”

The 9/11 ceremonies also helped remind us that on one of America’s worst days the country responded with a sense of unity, purpose and selflessness.

We can think of no greater way to honor those who died that day than to help recapture that spirit.

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