On a bright, clear morning similar to the day of the attacks on the World Trade Towers 11 years ago, the Town of North Hempstead conducted an anniversary memorial service in the serene setting of the Clark Botanic Garden in Albertson.
In front of the speaker’s podium, a short, rusted I-bar from one of the Trade Towers stood in stark contrast to the delicate flowers in the garden around it.
Offering the invocation, Rabbi Anchelle Perl of the Beth Sholom Chabad of Mineola, recalled last year’s ceremony at the Trade Towers site where 2,753 empty chairs were arranged to represent the victims of the attacks. He asked those attending the memorial service to imagine what those victims would have to say to them today, and what they would say to the victims.
“We came together as a nation,” Perl said. “We must continue to turn tragedy into triumph and ashes into revival. Today our enemies have reminded us that all we have is each other. May we come together in acts of kindness and compassion.”
Town Clerk Leslie Gross invoked the memory of former Town Supervisor May Newburger, who created the garden space for the September 11 memorial. She recalled Newburger, who died on Aug. 30, telling Gross that she didn’t think she would be able to make it to the memorial service this year.
“The capacity for evil does not die. The capacity of those who ran into those buildings demonstrated the human capacity for good,” Gross said, acknowledging the presence of volunteers from the Albertson Fire Department who had seen service on the Trade Towers site after the attacks.
Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman spoke about the reason for the memorial service.
“We understand it’s important that we come together and remember, not just so it will not happen again, but because we as a community have changed,” Kaiman said. “We find ways to serve, we find ways to participate because we believe in ways to make our world better.”
He said the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been a cause for our nation to fight past wars and to resist the present danger terrorists pose.
“We feel anguish at the horrible deaths they suffered,” he said of those who died in the Trade Tower attacks. “But to observe their deaths here gives light and peace to a dark moment.”
State Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel read Stephen Spender’s poem “I Think Continually of Those Who Are Truly Great,” which includes the lines:
“What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.”
Seemi Ahmed, Muslim chaplain at Hofstra University, read a prayer from the Koran attributed to the prophet Mohammed: “Oh God you are peace and from you is peace.”
Town council members Thomas Dwyer, Anna Kaplan, Angelo Ferrara, Lee Seeman, Dina DeGiorgio and Viviana Russell read the names of residents from their respective districts who had died on September 11 when the Trade Towers fell while a firefighter rang a single bell to accompany each name.
Two choral groups from the Long Island Conservatory sang “We are the World” and “Bridge over Trouble Water,” as some of those in attendance quietly sang along.
Rev. Thomas Tassone from St. Aidan Church in Williston Park, recalled the moment the Trade Towers fell - a moment that inspired his decision to become a priest.
“I grabbed a crucifix as the towers came down. I fell to my knees and said ‘What are we doing to one another?’” he said, adding that he heard a voice at that moment directing him to preach a gospel of peace and love.
“We pray for all those who were harmed in the attacks. We pray for peace in our lives,” he said.
The benediction was delivered by Rev. Charles Vogley, who said, “Remember us in the midst of things we cannot understand.”
Members of the Albertson Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5253, who had presented the colors as the memorial began, fired a three-volley salute to the dead. One veteran played taps and young bagpiper Corey McCluskey ended the ceremonies with a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace.”