A firefighter, an administrative assistant, a nurse and a government bond broker whose paths may have never crossed now share an eternal connection as their four glass panels sit side by side embracing the Gardens of Remembrance -- Suffolk County's first 9/11 memorial.

A crowd of more than 400 friends, family, elected officials, media and 9/11 Memorial Commission members gathered under and around three tents on the front lawn of the Armed Forces Plaza in Hauppauge Thursday afternoon to dedicate the new memorial and to pay tribute to those lives lost eight years ago.

"From the most simplistic memorial we can truly believe the 178 innocent lives lost from our county on September 11th is not just etched in glass here today, but etched in our hearts and our souls as we continue to move forward," said County Executive Steve Levy.

The memorial was created by a New York-based team: Barry Berger of Barry David Berger and Associates, and Barry Silberstang and Nicholas Agneta of Silberstang Architects. The 179 panels of glass -- one extra to honor the volunteers who built the memorial -- enclose a garden filled with plants and flowers indigenous to Suffolk County, according to Silberstang. Each panel displays the name, age, profession and town of those who perished.

"I wanted to create a garden you can see but not get in as an apt metaphor for loss," Silberstang said. Plants on the outside will be maintained, while the ones inside will grow untended.

The $1.4-million memorial took five years of planning and nearly six months to complete.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Standing next to their loved ones' panels, those present reflected.

"We never found him," said Michael Stack, 40, of St. James, a lieutenant in Ladder Company No. 176, speaking of his father, Lawrence T. Stack, 59, a battalion commander from Lake Ronkonkoma who perished trying to help a man who had severed his Achilles' tendon. "It's great to have something like this memorial."

COMPLETE COVERAGE: September 11: Eight years later

PHOTOS: See fire trucks, steel beams, and other relics that survived at Ground Zero

PHOTOS: See victims and personal items from the WTC Tribute Museum

PHOTOS: See the latest photos of Ground Zero