Exhibit at high school focuses on LI heroes

Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School held a grand opening ceremony for its "Heroic Long Island" exhibit honoring legendary Long Island figures. Videojournalist: Jessica Rotkiewicz (Jan. 31. 2013)

advertisement | advertise on newsday

A Navy SEAL who died trying to save his squad. A journalist slain while covering the civil war in Syria. First responders who lost their lives on 9/11.

They're among the Long Islanders being honored for their heroism in a unique exhibit at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School unveiled Thursday.

"Heroic Long Island" artifacts on display include the iconic eye patch worn by Marie Colvin, an Oyster Bay native who died last February while covering the Syrian uprising for a London newspaper.

There are also the black flippers used by Lt. Michael P. Murphy, the highly decorated Smithtown-born SEAL, who died in 2005 defending his squad from fierce enemy fire during an ambush in Afghanistan.

The new exhibit was the idea of Nick Ventimiglia, 60, a social studies teacher who helped establish the school's local history museum in 2009.

"We always try to include artifacts," Ventimiglia said, adding that he's not aware of other Long Island schools with similar museums. "You can always just print out pictures and tell stories. But we wanted to actually bring things people can see and touch and feel."

Ventimiglia says he reached out to family members, asking them to contribute artifacts to accompany the stories of their loved one's bravery.

Cathleen Colvin, addressing about 60 people gathered for the special event Thursday, thanked the school for the tribute to her sister.

"One of the most important things for her was helping younger people," said Colvin of Oyster Bay. "So this is particularly special to us to know that she's inspired students."

Daniel Murphy of Wading River said he hopes students remember how much his son and other honorees sacrificed to help others.

"It's an extremely special day, not just for the families, but for all of Long Island," he said. "These are Long Islanders. They're just not raised by their family. They're raised by their town and by the very fabric of Long Island."

Besides Michael Murphy, the exhibit includes tributes to other local military heroes. First responders such as Orio Palmer, an FDNY battalion chief who grew up in Patchogue, are remembered as well.

Palmer became a legendary figure after a heroic climb up 78 stories of the south tower with full gear. On display are his dusty, dirt-caked black shoes.

There are also small remnants from the fallen towers themselves, including a piece of marble from one of the lobbies.

Located in library of the school, which is in Plainview, the exhibit will be open through Memorial Day, Ventimiglia said. The exhibit is open to the public by appointment.

You also may be interested in: