The National September 11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan...

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan will host a 21st anniversary commemoration on Sunday morning for family members of 9/11 victims. Credit: Craig Ruttle

So much energy and emotion was spent last year on commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack on lower Manhattan, John Feal of Commack said, that he fears Americans have forgotten the grief, loss and sacrifice that resulted from the worst attack on U.S. soil as the 21st anniversary of that awful day approaches.

Feal, a demolition supervisor who was seriously injured in the rescue effort at Ground Zero, said depression and post-traumatic stress kicked in every year as summer turned to fall. He fears this year might be even worse as the number of 9/11-related deaths climbs ever higher. 

“Twenty-one is not as sexy a number as 20 and everybody put their eggs in the 20th anniversary basket last year,” said Feal, now the leader of the Nesconset-based FealGood Foundation, which advocates for Ground Zero first responders. “I’m afraid this [9/11 commemorations] will take a back seat to everything else going on in the world.”

Dozens of events will be held across Nassau, Suffolk and in New York City during the next week to honor the thousands of people — including nearly 500 from Long Island — killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 21 years ago. 

Long-term support needed

Mary Fetchet, executive director for Voices Center for Resilience, said many 9/11 victims, first responders and families did not get the long-term support, mental health care and wellness they needed. Fetchet, whose organization was originally called the Voices of September11th but now helps communities that have undergone traumatic events, lost her 24-year-old son, Brad Fetchet, in the attack.

“The thing that strikes me about the anniversary is that we’ve gotten to know so many of the families over the course of the years, and those relationships are so important,” Fetchet said. 

Frank Siller, the chief executive of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, said he also feared the sacrifices made by people like his brother, FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, were also starting to fade from America’s national memory. But he is encouraged by the fact that more people already have registered for the annual Tunnel to Towers 5K fundraiser this year than last year. The run is scheduled for Sept. 25. 

Tunnel to Towers, which support programs for first responders and catastrophically injured military members, will formally announce later this week the creation of the Tunnel to Towers Institute that will help develop a 9/11 curriculum and provide eyewitness speakers — police officers, firefighters and others at Ground Zero during and after the attack — to schools. 

This Friday, Tunnel to Towers also will pay off the mortgages for the families of 21 first responders and Gold Star veterans. The organization has paid off about 200 mortgages so far this year, Siller said.

“It was inspiring to us as a nation and we don’t want to forget their stories,” Siller said. “We can’t let our guard down and we can’t let it happen again.” 

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum in lower Manhattan will host a 21st anniversary commemoration on Sunday morning for family members of 9/11 victims that will include a reading of the names of those killed during the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville. 

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman is hosting a 9/11 remembrance ceremony and musical tribute at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on Sunday evening. The event will include a performance by opera singer Christopher Macchio, who grew up in Holbrook. 

Among the many others on Long Island, Suffolk County and the Town of Babylon also will hold ceremonies on Sunday.

Latest Videos