Carrying on the legacy of 9/11

Educators emphasize survival, unity, when teaching the tragedy to those born afterward


“One flag for each life lost,” said Dinah Finora, co-leader of one of the Girl Scout troops that took part in Rockville Centre’s Sept. 11 memorial ceremony on Sept. 17. Groups of scouts, from elementary-schoolers to pre-teens kneeled, their brown sashes touching the floor. Each had a fistful of flags, and one by one they pushed them into the ground, creating a star-spangled border along the path.

The gathering began on the Village Green at dusk. The local Girl Scout troops arrived before the event to plant the small American flags along the walkway that the Rockville Centre Fire and Police Department color guard would march down at the ceremony’s start.

Finora said that the flags’ importance doesn’t sink in until it’s time to remove them. “As you pull each one off the ground,” she said, “you realize how many people lost their lives.”

The majority of the scouts in attendance were born after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and their parents, who lived through that day, have found creative ways to talk to their children about what it means to “never forget.”

“It’s important to let this generation know what happened that day and how it changed our country,” Finora said. “We try to focus on the heroism of that day, and how the country came together.

“One of the dads in the troop is a fireman who was a first responder,” she continued. “He really puts it in such a way that it’s an uplifting experience.” But remembering those who were lost, she added, is just as important.

Maureen Orosz said she used a video that she found on Facebook to teach others about the day. “It showed the planes hitting the towers, but it was more about the story of a hero, someone who worked for Morgan Stanley that had evacuated almost everyone that worked there, but still went back to evacuate more,” Orosz said. “We lost a lot of great people that day, but a lot of the people that died, they were heroes. There’s a lot of good amongst us, and it really brought it out.”

The color guard marched onto the Village Green as the sun set. After the Pledge of Allegiance, recited by a group of younger Girl Scouts, Monsignor William Koenig of St. Agnes Cathedral led those assembled in a prayer. “Inspire in us the courage to act selflessly to those in need,” he said, “as so many first responders did so generously.”

A letter, written by recently deceased local writer Rob Sullivan for the 9/11 memorial in 2014, was read aloud by Mayor Francis X. Murray. The letter celebrated the first responders.

“Nothing can replace holding their hands, resting a tired head on their shoulders … to best remember them,” Murray read. “We should take from them the best of what they meant to us, and share it. … Tears will be, and should be shed. But we should always remember how lucky we were to have them in our lives, if only for a short time. We best honor them when our first thoughts of them bring smiles, and not tears.”

Liz Tighe, whose father, Stephen, died in the attacks, addressed the memorial’s attendees, and spoke about the future. She had attended a three-hour class on how to teach the lessons of 9/11 to children. The most important message to impart, Tighe said, is that “it wasn’t just a day of loss, it was a day of survival.”

Time passes, and as Tighe noted, “Children of those who perished are getting older, graduating college, finding jobs, getting married, having babies.

“The loss we endured is a void that won’t be filled,” she said. “But 16 years later, it’s something that we’ve learned to live with, and learned from, through the constant preservation of memory all around us.”