Among all the students at Albany Avenue Elementary School in North Massapequa wearing red, white and blue Friday in remembrance of Sept. 11, Gina Valerio also decorated her T-shirt with a photo pin of her father's best friend, fallen FDNY firefighter Brian Sweeney of Merrick.
"My father told me he was saving lots of people," said Gina, 9, who like many fourth-graders at the school has a personal connection to the event that happened before she was born. "It's important that all the kids learn about it."
The K-5 school in the Farmingdale district was one of many schools across Long Island that commemorated Sept. 11 this week. The attacks on the World Trade Center were covered in all classes, with a focus on the heroes of the day for the younger grades, principal Joseph Valentine said.
While teachers explained the details as best they could, it was the children of those who were at Ground Zero that day who had the most compelling stories.
Julia Komorowski's father, Matthew, was one of a group of firefighters and others who were trapped in a stairwell and survived the collapse of the north tower of the World Trade Center. Weeks later, his battered, dusty helmet was found; it now sits in a glass case in the family's living room.
"I truly think he is a hero," said Julia, 8, who shared the story of her father's stunning survival.
Jake Oemcke, 9, whose father, NYPD officer Steve Oemcke, was injured in the collapse, carried a news photograph of his father being helped away from Ground Zero.
"I tell people what a hero my dad was and it's such a miracle that he is still living," said Jake, a fourth-grader who said he wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
Second-grader Danny David Seaman, 7, was named for two of his father's fallen firefighter colleagues -- Lt. Daniel O'Callaghan of Smithtown and Capt. David Wooley of Nanuet in Rockland County. Friday, he shared his namesakes with his classmates. His father, Kevin Seaman, who is still with the FDNY, was proud.
"It was a sad day and a lot of good men did a lot of great things and unfortunately didn't come home," the father said. "He should be proud, and I am going to expect him to do great things."