Under clear blue skies that evoked the September morning 10 years ago when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, Islip Town residents Friday commemorated the loss of family members, friends and -- for some in attendance -- neighbors they never met.
In a separate ceremony at the 9/11 Park in Smithtown, 200 people lit candles at dusk as the names of 54 town residents who died in the towers were read aloud.
Mary Andrucki, of Smithtown, ran her hand through a pool of water at the memorial, and gently touched the plaque bearing the name of her daughter, Jean Andrucki, of Hoboken, N.J. Jean Andrucki worked for the Port Authority and was 43 when she died in the north tower.
"I always do that when I come by," Mary Andrucki said. "She always went kayaking and canoeing. She loved the water."
In Islip, tears flowed easily as town board members and Supervisor Phil Nolan took turns reading each of the 90 names of residents' relatives killed in the attacks. Each name was accompanied by a single bell toll, with a picture of the person who died held aloft by the reader.
Resident Rosemarie Chiofalo-Maggiroe attended the 9/11 Memorial Park ceremony outside Town Hall because her son Nicholas Paul Chiofalo, a member of the FDNY, died that day -- 10 days short of his 40th birthday. "They told me he went back into that building [the south tower] three times," she said.
Central Islip resident Susan Holdy and her husband, Harry, were among about 300 residents, relatives of victims, town, county and state officials who attended. Susan Holdy worked at Marsh & McClennan on the 51st floor of the south tower and arrived for work shortly after the first plane struck the north tower. She lost friends and colleagues in the attacks.
"They said it was only a small plane and that we were OK to go into my tower, but something stopped me," she recalled shortly before the ceremony at which a steel beam recovered from the wreckage of the World Trade Center was unveiled in honor of the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
Retired FDNY firefighter Rick Gimbl, now Islip director of emergency management, lost his friend, neighbor and firefighting partner of 18 years and spoke of what it was like to work at "the pile" and the guilt felt by the many who survived.
"Men, women, firefighters, EMS, ironworkers and allied construction workers all became brothers that day while we dug with buckets, shovels and even our hands," he said. "After four days of working around the clock to find a brother, I returned home, hugged my wife and children and felt so guilty that I was still alive."