Neighbors gathered Sunday on Great Oaks Road in East Hills to remember friends, and some even managed a smile on a sunny morning eerily similar to the same day one decade earlier. A uniformed firefighter whispered to a group of locals, “Except for the clouds, the day was exactly the same,” as he looked up at the tree tops.
About 50 residents were on hand for the renaming of Arlene Park, after Arlene Fried, who was well-known for her work on the village’s building committee. She, along with 16 other village residents, were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
The assembled group, which included members of the Roslyn Fire Department, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman and other dignitaries, sat silently and listened to Mayor Michael Koblenz’s first-hand account of the World Trade Center attacks. Clouds hid away the sun and a gentle breeze picked up as Koblenz recalled being in a subway beneath the North Tower when it was struck and, 15 minutes later, witnessed the second attack from his Battery Park office.
“It was very tough because all I could think about was, ‘How many of our friends and people that we know are going to get out of there?’” he said.
Fried was an employee at Cantor Fitzgerald, whose corporate offices were located on Floors 101-105 of the North Tower. “All of those people in our community that died that day... was a hero and deserved to be honored and remembered always.”
Some people whispered sobs, while others simply stared at the podium as they listened to firefighters talk about East Hills brothers Peter and Tom Langone, Roslyn Fire Department volunteers who rode an engine into the city to help the FDNY and never came home.
The park thundered with applause in appreciation for the Roslyn Fire Department, which spent four days at Ground Zero following the attacks. The ceremony celebrated the residents’ lives as Koblenz referenced a plaque dedicated at the park in 2002 that reads, “May the memory of their lives ever be for a blessing and inspire us to deeds of kindness.”
As Koblenz read the verbiage out loud a woman sniffled and her daughter, who was too young to have lived through the attacks said, “Mommy, are you crying?”
Her mother turned the little girl to break eye contact and then wrested her hands on the girl’s shoulders. The girl struggled to turn back around and looked up at her mother.
“Don’t cry,” she said to her mother, who was trying hard to fight back tears. “It’ll be OK.”