For Robert Prucha of Sayville, not a single day goes by that he doesn’t think of his friends Raymond Meisenheimer of West Babylon and Kevin Smith of Bethpage, who were both killed during the 9/11 attacks.
Prucha, one of the hundreds of attendees Sunday at the Bohemia Fire Department 9/11 Memorial, took some time to reflect.
Through teary eyes, he described the tremendous loss he felt.
“Kevin and Raymond were the best. I knew them for about 35 years. I will never forget them.
"Raymond and Kevin were members of the East Farmingdale Fire Department. They were the initial rescue crew dealing with the hazmat heavy rescue with the New York Fire Department. They both had wives; Raymond had two daughters and Kevin had seven children.”
As an East Farmingdale firefighter for the past 17 years, Prucha vividly remembers the horrific events of the terrorists attacks.
“The smell was terrible,” said Prucha, who volunteered to work on the Ground Zero rubble. “I was there the first few days doing the removal and cutting. I remember everything, and the most disturbing part for me was seeing so many human lives destroyed. The mind is just like a camera, and I can’t get rid of the picture. You try to make sense of it but you can’t. It doesn’t even feel like it’s been 10 years for me. It feels like yesterday.”
Bohemia Fire Department Chief Jeff Behounek lost friend Billy Mahoney, a member of the FDNY and the Ronkonkoma-based Lakeland Fire Department, on Sept. 11. He is thankful for the memorial.
“This memorial is an awesome reflection of the people who lost their lives to a terrible event,” Behounek said.
The ceremony included students from John Pearl Elementary School and Connetquot High School reading poems, and Bohemia Fire Department Commissioner Tom Riedel spreading a message of thanks for community support. As he spoke the Islip Town Horseman Association marched along the perimeter of the large beam from the north tower, which stands outside the Bohemia Fire Department.
The ceremony closed with the release of 11 snow-white doves flying into the air as Rabbi Steve Moss of Oakdale spoke.
Said Moss, “As the doves disappear, reflect on the special people that have touched your life.”