A bench on the Long Beach boardwalk stands as a tribute to John Sherry, whose remains were never recovered from the World Trade Center.
On last year’s 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, his family went to Hempstead Town’s memorial ceremony at Point Lookout, but the bench on Magnolia Boulevard sat battered and broken.
Long Beach officials are working to fix about 300 of 920 benches on the 2.2-mile boardwalk. More than 100 of the benches are dedicated to 9/11 victims.
Sherry's bench is now repaired in time for this year's anniversary. Sherry’s sister Michele Sherry Mosca, 60, of Long Beach, said she was glad to see the benches repaired.
“I know it was just hard to see them broken,” Sherry Mosca said. “It was like a broken heart once more.”
The Sherry family grew up in Rockville Centre and remembered always going to Long Beach with John, 34, a bond broker who worked on the 84th floor of the south tower. His remains were never recovered from Ground Zero.
His sister said she passes his bench almost every day on the boardwalk. She said the family attempted to pay the city to fix the bench but was told repairs were being made.
“It’s a peaceful place to remember. It felt like the right place to reflect and be able to go there,” Sherry Mosca said. “With all those people walking by and riding bikes, it was better than being in a cemetery. They didn’t find him, so we can visit his bench and he’s with us all the time.”
The plaque on his bench reads in part, ”As we look out at this vast ocean and feel the power and peace of God, We think of you and the times we shared. You’re with us always.”
Long Beach city officials said they try to make repairs to benches periodically but were waiting for funding to become available at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
City officials have not determined how much is being spent on repairs, but workers have fixed 75 of the 300 damaged benches on the boardwalk. The city is ordering additional materials in the next six weeks to fix more benches after the summer season, Public Works Director John Mirando said.
Benches are often damaged because people use them for exercise, sometimes by jumping on them or using straps on the boards for stretching, Mirando said.
The city's then 722 benches were battered in 2012 after the boardwalk was destroyed by superstorm Sandy. Flooding and seawater from Sandy left the benches brittle and caused boards to break off. They were placed in storage for about a year while the boardwalk was rebuilt, and workers attempted to return benches to their original locations, based on available records. Most benches had been purchased from the city by loved ones for about $3,000 each.
“People have a very emotional attachment to the memorial benches and, naturally, the city recognizes that, and we want to make sure that those benches are treated with respect they deserve,” city spokesman Gordon Tepper said.
On the boardwalk
- Total benches: 920
- Number of benches damaged: 300
- Fixed so far: 75
- Price to purchase a memorial bench: $3,000