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Charity walk at Hauppauge High School benefits 9/11 first responders

A community comes together to raise money for

A community comes together to raise money for 9/11 First Responders at Hauppauge High School in Hauppauge on Sept 26, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Hauppauge High School seniors Craig Bottner and Teressa Mercurio were toddlers when terrorists slammed planes into the Twin Towers, killing nearly 3,000 people.

But they vividly know the story of Sept. 11, 2001, from news accounts, lesson plans and personal stories.

So they dedicated most of their mandated community service hours with 9/11 in mind, partnering with John Feal, founder and president of the Nesconset-based Feal Good Foundation, which raises money for first responders struggling with sickness related to 9/11.

Their efforts culminated Saturday in a charity walk, attended by more than 50 people, with the aim of walking a collective 911 miles around the track at Hauppauge High School. They walked more than 1,000 laps -- about 400 miles.

The roughly $500 in proceeds from the charity walk will go to the Feal Good Foundation.

"While we walk, and while we enjoy ourselves and have fun, remember there are a lot of people at home right now -- on oxygen, in hospice, in wheelchairs -- who can't join us here today," Feal said. He said he lost part of his left foot due to gangrene from doing contract work on the rubble at Ground Zero for 51/2 days after the terrorist attacks.

Martin Simmons, an FDNY firefighter, died from respiratory failure in 2008 -- his death attributed by New York City authorities to his work as a first responder, said his widow, Judi Simmons, 48, of Nesconset.

"I appreciate it so much because the responders are still here today and so many of them are so sick, and unfortunately people are passing away," she said Saturday.

"It's very important to continue to help these people," said Mercurio, 17.

Bottner, who was about 2 on 9/11, said her lack of memories doesn't blunt the impact. Every year on 9/11, teachers break from the usual instruction and teach students about that day, he said.

"It's a very emotional thing," Bottner, 16, said. "I feel like 9/11 created a unity among all Americans."

Glen Klein, 57, of Centereach, says he has various ailments related to 800 hours at the site as an NYPD officer. "To see these kids come out and show how important it is, it's very inspiring," he said of the students' efforts.

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