First Parish Church in Riverhead was solemn Sunday, with parishioners huddling together and speaking in hushed tones as they waited for the Sept. 11 memorial service to begin.
The main speaker was Elizabeth Rather of Riverhead, who was a junior at Fordham University in the Bronx on the morning that terrorists flew two passenger planes into the World Trade Center.
Rather, who was 19 at the time, was working at the Fordham University campus radio station on the morning of Sept. 11, when she received a call from a listener about the first tower being hit. She said that she and everyone else on campus was in a state of shock those next few days.
“It’s hard for me to look back on it, even though I’m only 29,” said Rather. Coupled with her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2005, Rather has had a difficult time in the years since the towers fell.
“I still cry over spilled milk,” she said.
Others then shared their stories about loved ones who were lost or affected by the attacks. First Parish Church pastor Diane Rodriguez, 54, of Valley Stream recalled her anxiety upon losing contact with her son, who was a student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was OK, but others weren’t so lucky.
Parishioner Marybeth Finnecan-Bilunas, 59, of Jamesport spoke about her cousin, Michael Curtin, a first responder with the New York Police Department who gave his life that day trying to save those still inside the collapsed buildings.
“He had a great sense of humor,” said Finnecan-Bilunas of her cousin. “We miss him. We’ll always miss him.”