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Years after 9/11, families remember Nassau relatives killed in the attacks

Susan Hutchins, on Thursday at an Eisenhower Park

Susan Hutchins, on Thursday at an Eisenhower Park memorial for Nassau residents killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, holds a picture of her son Kevin Colbert, who died after a plane hit the south tower.   Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Mineola resident James Cahill never received the Sept. 11, 2001, phone call his son had promised the night before.

Cahill said his son, Michael, told him: “I’ll give you a call tomorrow when I get home."

Michael Cahill, then 37, a patent attorney who lived in East Williston, died in the terrorist attacks. He was working on the 42nd floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower.

On Thursday afternoon, James Cahill and his wife, Evelyn, sat on stage at the Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. It was there that Michael Cahill's name and those of 347 others killed 19 years ago, were read aloud in a ceremony honoring Nassau County residents who lost their lives in the attacks.

For James Cahill, the pain has not subsided, he said.

“It’s the 19th time. It’s like it was yesterday,” he said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the latest iteration of the ceremony was different due to the coronavirus pandemic. The crowd at the park was sparse compared to past ceremonies, she said. About 50 spectators, many of whom donned masks and lost family or friends on 9/11, attended the event.

But in other ways, Curran said, some things haven’t changed, including that Sept. 11, 2001, should never be forgotten.

“Everyone … lost on that day and because of that day, is a true hero,” she told those in attendance. “They made a sacrifice, willingly or not, so that we could live in freedom. I am grateful to them. I am grateful to you.” 

Curran urged the spectators and those watching through a livestream to “come together,” especially because the world is so divided.

“That’s why it is so important that we come together," she said. "We mourn together, we grieve together, we pray together."

Those who read the names of the dead were personally touched by the terrorist attack, losing a loved one themselves.

Susan Hutchins said the death of a child changes a person. Her son, Kevin Colbert, then 25, of West Hempstead, worked in international finance on the 89th floor of the south tower.

“It represents the loss of future experiences and all the hopes and dreams you had for them,” Hutchins said. “In the air and in the wind, I feel his strong embrace and I miss him so much. I can’t even find the words.”

Gregory Hoffman, 55, who read off names leading up to that of his identical twin brother, Stephen, 36 and a Long Beach resident the day he died, also named an NYPD officer who recently succumbed to cancer caused by his time spent at Ground Zero. Hoffman, of Glen Oaks, Queens, said 9/11 is a never-ending day of terror.

As for Hoffman’s brother, who was younger than him by three minutes, he said: “Steve was bigger than life. He got cheated out of years — not out of living.”

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