Conor Nee, 17, was just 5 years old when his uncle George Cain died on Sept. 11, 2001.
Cain was a member of the New York City Fire Department Ladder 7 in Manhattan. He grew up in Massapequa and lived in upstate Patterson.
Nee remembers his uncle’s laugh the most.
“He had the coolest laugh. It would light up a room,” he said.
A senior at Sachem High School East, Nee said he felt honored to witness the ribbon-cutting for the 9/11 memorial at the front entrance of the high school on Sunday morning. The memorial is in honor of those from the Sachem community lost in the attack.
“This memorial means a lot to me,” Nee said. “I am very happy to get to see this happen in my senior year.”
The ceremony was a part of the "Run to Remember 5K" held at Sachem High School East in Farmingville. The event also included a "Fun Run" for kids ages 2 to 10 and a "Mud and Guts 2 Miler," modeled after the popular “Tough Mudder” and other mud runs.
Nee’s mother Nancy, 51, of Holbrook, was touched by the outpouring of support from the Sachem community.
“My brother George was only 35 years old when he was killed,” she said. “It’s because of George that my oldest son Christopher … joined the Army. It is a tribute to his uncle to help people.”
Nancy Nee, said her daughter, Meaghan, 20, is a student at SUNY Oneonta, was also inspired by her uncle. “She wants to help kids get through tragedies.”
"Run to Remember" raised about $7,000 to benefit the Timothy Higgins Memorial Scholarship, named for a New York City firefighter killed on Sept. 11, 2001. He is the father of Sachem High School East graduate Cody Higgins.
Co-coordinators and Sachem High School East teachers Meredith Babst and Jaimie Sison knew they wanted to honor 9/11 and the Sachem community in a special way. They decided the memorial would be the ideal choice for the school.
“Many families were affected by 9/11 in the Sachem community,” Babst said. “So many families have suffered dealing with the tragedies.”
Through sponsors and donations, the community raised $15,000 to build the memorial, according to Babst and Sison. The memorial was built in the shape of the Pentagon with two platforms meant to represent the twin towers.
About 150 people ran the 5k and 200 participated in the mud run, in which individuals tackled a mud pit, hurdles, stepping stones and a tire roll.
The male and female winners for the 5k were Felix Arriaga, 16, of Farmingville with a time of 19:44 and Lindsay LaFleur, 26, of Holbrook with a time of 23:08.
Babst and Sison plan to add the original piece of steel from the south tower to the memorial by next year. Nancy Nee got involved with various 9/11 groups after her brother was killed. When she heard the school was building a memorial she started working to help get a piece of steel donated.
“This memorial means a lot to the Sachem community. We plan to make the memorial more park like by adding benches, plaques and a walkway. We want the students to come here to relax and reflect,” said Babst.