From atop the platform at the Massapequa Park train station, commuters can take in a breathtaking sight this week, a stark visual reminder of the many lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
American flags -- 2,977 of them -- have been carefully “planted” on the lawn outside Massapequa Park Village Hall, each symbolizing one of the victims killed on 9/11. Five larger flags in the center represent five of the village’s own residents who perished that day.
The display is an annual tradition in Massapequa Park. It started 13 years ago, on the first anniversary of the attacks, said Gail Klubnick, a long-time resident whose family owns Tim’s Florist on Park Boulevard.
“The first year, we wanted to do something, but we didn’t know what to do; we felt helpless,” Klubnick, 62, said.
When a friend told her about an impressive flag display a Boston community had created, Klubnick followed their model, and purchased the necessary number of flags.
“The first year was tough, the ground was like a rock,” she said. “We had to take a drill to drill holes, so it took forever.”
But she said the effort was all worth it, especially when family members of some of the local victims stopped by.
It also made an impression on the village’s youngest residents, who were just babies, or not born, when the attacks took place. While helping her staff place the flags one year, Klubnick said a local Boy Scout turned to her and asked, “Why are there so many?”
When she told him each one represented a life lost, she said he was taken aback.
“Once you see the enormity of it, it kind of gets to you,” she said.
After a few years of assisting with the planting of the flags, Boy Scout Troop 660 took over the project. About 20 scouts including some Cub Scouts from Troop 696 spent three hours Saturday morning creating this year’s display.
“I hope when people see it, it’s easy to recognize the sacrifice that people made and that we still respect that people died that day,” said Troop 660’s Ryan Kaufman, a sophomore at Massapequa High School.
Kaufman was only 2 years old on Sept 11.
Massapequa Park Mayor Jeffrey Pravato said the display is an “outstanding tradition” that honors the victims and educates future generations.
“We can never forget the sacrifices and the pain the country went through that day,” he said. “We have to educate our kids, because we don’t want that to ever happen again.”