LI firefighters mourn loss of 9/11 victims

Flags, some with messages, are placed in the

Flags, some with messages, are placed in the sand around the 9/11 chrome replicas of the Twin Towers at the ceremony Friday to honor those who were lost on Sept. 11, 2001. The Town of Hempstead hosted the sunrise ceremony under a tent because of the rain. (Sept. 11, 2009) Photo Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

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As raindrops knocked on the windows of the courtroom at Hempstead Village Hall Friday, students, firefighters and others came together to remember four residents who died in the 9/11 attacks.

"We shed our tears in a common bond of grief for those we loved and lost," Hempstead Fire Department chaplain Keith Ericksen said as he led mourners in a prayer. Members of the Jackson Main and Franklin Street school choirs also performed.

Village residents and fire volunteers Durrell "Broncko" Pearsall Jr., an ex-FDNY captain for Rescue 4, and Michael Kiefer, of Truck Company 132, died in the attacks. Village residents Dorothy Morgan and Alva Jeffries Sanchez also died.

"We journey through a dark valley, but your light has led us to a place of hope," Ericksen said. "You have turned our grief into determination. We are resolved to do what is good and right and just."

Around Long Island, the bad weather caused some organizers to alter their plans. But ceremonies were held nonetheless in honor of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed, with Long Islanders huddled under a tent in Lido Beach, forming a human flag in a school in Malverne and pausing for reflection at Mass in Garden City.

The East Northport Fire Department's 9/11 memorial plans included hoisting a huge American flag from the ladders of two fire engines, releasing a dozen white doves and a flyover by a Suffolk County police helicopter.

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But even though wind and rain halted those events, the department still remembered the victims, with about five dozen firefighters standing side by side in the driving rain in solidarity with those who died Sept. 11, 2001.

"We still did what we were supposed to do," said Lt. Frank Giovinco. "We honored the folks who died Sept. 11, we honored their families and we honored the walking wounded."

Alison Day, 25, of East Northport, slowly sang "God Bless America," an American flag whipping in the wind behind her.

Day said the message of remembrance and prayer touched her heart. "I prayed that it would hit other people's hearts," she said.

At St. Anne's Catholic Church in Garden City, the Rev. John Gilmartin mentioned in his homily eight parishioners who died in the attacks, said Ellen Redding, a retired schoolteacher. Garden City was a community hit especially hard - 21 residents died.

"Today was beautiful," said Redding, who emerged from the 9 a.m. service dwelling on the positive.

"I'm just thankful for the people who survived," including her daughter, who was an investment banker in the second tower, she said. She was about to enter an elevator when people warned her of the attacks.

"Now she has three beautiful children," said Redding, who attends Mass daily and was in her classroom at Herricks Middle School when the towers were hit.

Kathy Keane, 44, spends every Sept. 11 attending Mass at St. Anne's. "I come to pray for all the victims and their families," she said. "I'm lucky I didn't lose anyone that close."


In Malverne, students aimed for an uplifting tone at Howard T. Herber Middle School, where they donned red, white and blue to form an American flag.

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"It's to get the kids excited about coming together as one and remembering something that affected a lot of peoples' lives," said principal Steve Gilhuley.

About 500 students crowded into the gym, wearing red, white and blue clothes and holding up construction paper for a group photograph.

The flag event was the latest in several character education projects at the school. Others included a food drive and sending mail to the troops overseas, Gilhuley said.

In Lido Beach, hundreds gathered under a tent for an annual ceremony, where the sound of water pouring from the ceremony's fountain and Twin Towers replica mixed with that of rain during a moment of silence.


New York City firefighter Kenneth Haskell of Wantagh shared memories of his older brothers, Timothy and Thomas Jr., also FDNY firefighters, who died at Ground Zero.

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The ocean has always been a source of comfort, especially for Long Islanders, he told the crowd.

"Water has been instrumental in the healing process of the past eight years," he said.

After the ceremony, attendees threw white carnations into the fountain's pool and put American flags into sand around it.

Leslie Chin, 51, of Mineola, carried her best friend's photo, which she had glued to two sticks, and placed it in the sand.

When Chin first arrived, she worried she wouldn't be able to carry out her yearly ritual of displaying a photo of her friend, Kumkum Giralamo.

Giralamo, 37, of Kew Gardens, was on the 99th floor of the second tower when a plane hijacked by terrorists slammed into it.

"All I have are my memories," Chin said. "I miss her every day. Friendships with women are hard to come by."

Long Beach couple Elaine and Jack Pearlman usually spend Sept. 11 at home, remembering their son who died in Tower One.

"This is our first year here," said Elaine Pearlman, 70. They had been reluctant to go to a public event to remember their son, Aram Iskenderian, 41, of Merrick.

"It's still private," she said, clutching a white carnation and small American flag.

With Carl MacGowan, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Keith Herbert

>>PHOTOS: Ground Zero ceremonies | Long Island remembers

>>PHOTOS: Relics and wreckage from Ground Zero | Victims

>>COMPLETE COVERAGE: September 11: Eight years later

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