Jo Ann Lagone watched reverently as the color guard marched in Eisenhower Park against a backdrop of two steel towers representing the World Trade Center. She reflected on the loss of two giants in her life: her husband, Thomas, a police officer, and her brother-in-law, Peter, a firefighter.
Both men died at Ground Zero after responding to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
So Lagone, 51, of Williston Park, gathered with about 150 people, some in lawn chairs and some sitting on ledges near the memorial fountain, at a sunset ceremony Wednesday to commemorate the eighth anniversary of one of the nation's darkest days.
She said it was the second time that she had attended the Nassau County-sponsored event in the East Meadow park.
"It's a very draining, long day," Lagone said of the annual service she will attend Friday, in Manhattan, nonetheless. "This one is nicer."
Four uniformed Marines carried the American flag up to the podium, where Janet Wexler Magee, whose husband died in the attacks, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
"September 11th will last in our hearts forever," said Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi. "Those memories don't fade with the people here. We will pray for them. We will pray for each other."
Men and women called off the names of the 344 Nassau residents who died on Sept. 11. Each read a few dozen names and ended their list with the loved one they lost.
Some broke down in tears, including a woman who spoke about how much she missed her brother, her hero.
Ten gray plaques on the cement walls around the fountains bear the name, age, town, employer and tower where each of the Nassau residents died.
Some observers put pictures of their loved ones next to their names on the wall.
Beth Mahon, 44, of Locust Valley, lost her husband, Thomas, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the North Tower. They had just celebrated their third wedding anniversary when he died, leaving her to raise their daughter, Shay, then 21 months old.
"It's very difficult to go to these types of things, but I came and I was really amazed at the beauty of it," Mahon said, gesturing toward the fountain.
"Time heals, but you never forget," she said. "I think about him every day. My daughter doesn't have a father. I know he's watching over her and he's very proud."
With Zachary R. Dowdy