Seventeen years later, the horror unleashed from terrorists bent on apocalypse has been met with silent prayer for loved ones lost, chiming bells for when the first plane hit and tributes for the infants, now on their way to adulthood without a mom or dad's guiding hand.
Beginning at sunrise Tuesday until well after dark, Long Island once again stopped to mark the day that claimed the lives of close to 500 Nassau and Suffolk residents on Sept. 11, 2001. For a few hours, private memories of those lost poured forth from parents, children, friends and co-workers — scores of people living with the same irreplaceable void.
At Point Lookout's Town Park, a crowd of more than 500 assembled on a fog-shrouded early morning at the Town of Hempstead's new waterfront memorial. Nearly 200 victims lived in the town.
Lisa Burch was there to honor and remember her brother, Andrew Stern, of Lynbrook. A bond broker and father of three, Stern worked on the 104th floor of the north tower.
Burch looked out on her family during the ceremony, including her nephew Dan, who was 7 when his father was killed.
“His children were dealt a hand 17 years ago that changed the course of their lives,” Burch said. “But overcome, they did, their dad always did as well.”
The family has established an essay contest in East Rockaway schools so that students, especially those born after 9/11, will never forget.
The monument, completed last year, includes a granite wall etched with the names of those who died in the attacks as well as those who succumbed to 9/11-related illnesses. The memorial mall, which also includes a meditation plaza and a 30-foot steel beam recovered from the pile at Ground Zero, overlooks Lido Beach, where hundreds gathered 17 years ago to watch black smoke billow from lower Manhattan.
Kim Rollins, 60, of Glen Cove saw the smoke too. It's an image she said she'll never forget. Rollins, attending a memorial event on Tuesday night in Glen Cove, said from her vantage point on the Utopia Parkway in Queens, the smoke from the attacks was clearly visible although she didn't know the cause right away.
"It's in everybody's soul," Rollins said of the attacks, as she joined close to 100 others at Glen Cove Heritage Garden. "We’ve got to keep these people alive, their memories alive.”
Relatives of the victims gathered at the garden with legislators, military veterans and first responders before the group walked to Pratt Park for a sunset ceremony.
Retired Nassau County Police Det. Beth Nugent, 56 of Glen Cove, said she was still a cop on Sept. 2001 and recalled working on the pile at Ground Zero — one among hundreds of first responders and others digging in the rubble for signs of survivors.
“It was a huge pile and over the course of days it went from rescue to recovery,” Nugent said at the Glen Cove memorial. "When somebody said they heard a noise that maybe there was a person, there would be a whistle and everybody would be silent so they could hear where it was coming from."
Nugent said she never found anyone alive.
On the day of the attacks, Jennifer Pacini said, she was in Florida for a friend's 30th birthday party. On Tuesday, Pacini, 42, of Glen Cove, attended the memorial service to support her husband, a member of the city's Harbor Patrol who took in the ceremony. Pacini said her father is a retired firefighter and her brother is a firefighter with the FDNY.
“It’s just sad," Pacini said of the late-summer day in 2001 that ended with nearly 3,000 people dead. "You just get the chills whenever you think about it.”
As Pacini spoke, her daughter Mikayla, 7, stood close by, dressed in red, white and blue with a large bow in her hair. So far, Pacini said, she's avoided telling Mikayla about the attacks.
"I still think she’s too young to know,” she said.
Earlier in Melville, more than 60 people stood in silent prayer at 8:46 a.m. outside the village's Fire Department Station 3 to mark the moment when the terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the side of the World Trade Center's north tower. Afterward, attendees placed flowers at the base of a pole with an American flag on top, swaying in the morning breeze. Next to the flagpole rested a piece of World Trade Center steel.
“To all the police officers and firefighters who lost their lives, we keep them in our prayers,” St. Pius V High School Principal Mary Agnes told others gathered for the service.
At 9:03 a.m., when United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower, volunteer firefighters with the Melville Fire Department saluted the American flag and sounded an alarm before ending the program.
With Deon J. Hampton