This story was reported by John Asbury, Robert Brodsky and Matthew Chayes. it was written by Brodsky.
Twenty-two years have gone by since Lisa Sarni of Hicksville lost her father and uncle on a cool bright Tuesday morning in September when the nation, and her family, were irrevocably altered.
Much has changed since terrorists crashed a Boeing 767 into the north tower of the World Trade Center, where her father, retired NYPD Det. Richard Poulos of Levittown, and his brother-in-law James Hopper, of Farmingdale, worked as security guards at the stock and bond trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald.
But, in some sense, time has stood still for the still-grieving family.
On Monday, Sarni, 54, placed white roses alongside her father's name, etched in bronze at the 9/11 memorial in lower Manhattan — seeking a bit of comfort on an anniversary where solace is always in short supply.
"They never found my father and this is where he was; where we come every year," Sarni said during the annual ceremony at Ground Zero. "It hits hard and we obviously don’t forget."
For more than four hours, family members of the dead recited the names of the nearly 3,000 victims killed in the nation's worst terror attack. The painstaking tradition was interrupted six times for the tolling of a bell marking the time when the towers were struck by airliners, when they crumbled into rubble and when planes crashed into the Pentagon and into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Tricia Henry, 48, of Long Beach, who comes from a family of firefighters, attended the 22nd anniversary ceremony to remember her brother-in-law, Joey Henry, 25, of Brooklyn, and her cousin, Tommy Kelly, 39, of Riverhead, both FDNY personnel lost in the attack. Henry's 14-year-old niece was among those who read the names of the slain.
"We come to honor their memories and everyone else we lost that day," Henry said. "It brings everything back. You remember where you were that day and how you felt."
Remembering 9/11 victims in different ways
Each family has their own way of remembering those lost.
Some wore T-shirts bearing their loved one's visage. Others placed flags or flowers on the bronze parapet bearing the victims' names. Others traced the names with tissue paper.
Freyda Markow, whose cousin, FDNY firefighter George Cain, of Massapequa, was killed in the attack, has "lost count" of the Mass cards she wears as a necklace memorializing the 9/11 dead. She adds a new card whenever a victim’s family member gives her one.
"All we can do is come and pray," Markow said.
As in years past, the ceremony drew delegations of police, firefighters, medics and other first responders from the metro area and as far as France, the Dominican Republic and Israel.
Vice President Kamala Harris was in attendance, joined by the governors of New York and New Jersey, the current and past three New York City mayors, the state's U.S. Senate delegation and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 presidential hopeful.
While commemorations took place throughout the day on Long Island — at Point Lookout, Riverhead, Islip, Babylon and beyond — Ground Zero remained the focal point for many whose loved ones' remains were never recovered.
Nancy Burke Salter, of Manhasset, and her daughter Emma, placed three American flags in the etching of her brother's name, Thomas Daniel Burke. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 employees. His remains were never recovered, so the site is the cemetery for the family.
"This is his resting place," Burke Salter said, holding a photo of her brother on the day of one of his son’s baptisms. "Tom lit up a room. He had a bright smile, big blue eyes. He was very charismatic. And he was just a huge loss to our family. He left behind four young sons and his wife … We just can never replace what we lost that day."
Mike Weinstein, 59, of Syosset, came to Ground Zero to pay tribute to his cousin, Steve Belson, an FDNY firefighter who drove Rev. Mychal Judge, the FDNY chaplain, to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Judge was the first certified casualty in the attacks.
Weinstein, who has been to the memorial eight times, noted how much time had passed since the attacks.
"Every year I try to honor him," Weinstein said of his cousin. "It's a sad story."
One in five 9/11 victims from Long Island
Twenty-two years ago, terrorists plotting with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaida flew two hijacked jetliners into the Twin Towers, killing themselves and 2,753 victims there. When the towers were struck, an estimated 16,400 to 18,000 people were in the Trade Center complex — the vast majority were evacuated safely.
Nearly 1 in 5 of those killed at Ground Zero — almost 500 in all — were Long Islanders. Roughly two-thirds were from Nassau while the rest lived in Suffolk. Hundreds more died when a plane crashed into the Pentagon, and 44 others when Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
Inside the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Jay Saloman, 59, whose brother Wayne Saloman was killed in the attacks, and Jay's son, Jonathan, 22, all of Seaford, browsed mementos of survivors and victims. A difficult section of the museum for him depicted the 9/11 and 1993 terrorist attackers.
"The worst part is seeing the terrorists around the corner," he said. "It's a bit disturbing … It's part of history — and in turn it has to be acknowledged."
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman paused at the reflecting pools to remember his nephew, Court Officer Tommy Jurgens, who was killed in the south tower.
Jurgens was a Meadowmere Park volunteer firefighter who was administering CPR on a burned woman when the tower collapsed on him and his two colleagues. His body was never recovered.
“I come here every year. This is his final resting place and I have an obligation to be here for him,” Blakeman said. “It was such a tragic and devastating day.”
Elsewhere, Walter Iwachiw, of Sunnyside, stood before the bronze parapet memorializing Diane Damato Urban, of Malverne, who died in the south tower.
"I come every year. Because it's family, you know?," he said.
In the decades since the attacks, thousands of first responders, laborers, workers, volunteers and others who were at Ground Zero have died of illnesses attributed to airborne toxins inhaled there.
About 30% of those dead are Long Islanders, according to John Feal, a first responder from Nesconset who lost half of his left foot while clearing the rubble.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Monday said Congress must act in the coming years to prevent an impending funding gap in the World Trade Center Health Program.
"It has to be a nonpartisan effort every few years to make sure we have the resources," Gillibrand told Newsday.
Roughly two-thirds of first responders have suffered from chronic illness after working on the pile, experts have said. The FDNY, which lost 343 personnel in the attack, is about to surpass a milestone of more illness-related deaths than members who died on 9/11.
Lindenhurst's Mike Schiavone, 27, and Cristina Schiavone, 22, the children of NYPD Det. James Schiavone, who died in 2017 of a 9/11-linked colon cancer at the age of 49, wore stickers Monday bearing their father's name.
"It sucks that he's not here anymore, but we're there for each other," Cristina Schiavone said. "The best we can do.”