The Seaford community gathered on June 26 for the 15th annual Patriot Award Dinner, held at the Woodbury Country Club.
Five graduating Seaford High School seniors received scholarship awards in honor of the five alumni who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Three community members were also honored for their volunteerism.
The student winners — April Pensa, Chris Barreiros, Kenny Haskell, Allison Palermo and Patrick Kern — were announced at the high school graduation on June 24. They were chosen for the award because they exhibited leadership and service qualities similar to the town’s fallen heroes: Tommy Haskell, Timmy Haskell, John Perry, Robert Sliwak and Michael Wittenstein.
Seaford 9/11 Committee President Ken Haskell explained that Patriot Award candidates are judged not by their academics, but by their character. He said the award winners demonstrate “the diverse, unique qualities” that his brothers, Timmy and Tommy, had throughout their lives.
“It has been cathartic for me after losing my brothers to see this community giving back,” he said. “It is a very positive outcome out of such a horrible situation.”
Each student received a $2,000 scholarship, along with an award statue.
“It’s so indescribable and humbling to be honored in their memory,” Pensa said. “I have big shoes to fill.”
The Rev. Robert Hayden, of St. William the Abbot Catholic Church, William Sims and Barbara Richko won the Honorary Patriot Award. They were recognized because they consistently look for ways to give back to the community, according to the dinner organizers.
At the ceremony, all of the winners were inducted into the Patriot Award Association. The event doubled as a fundraiser for the Seaford 9/11 Committee and memorial. More than 330 residents and sponsors attended the dinner.
Although the student Patriot Award recipients were only 2 years old when the Twin Towers fell in 2001, they each said that they’ve heard the heroic stories of the five fallen Seaford alumni — and learned important lessons
“No matter what awards I’d win in the past and future, this is the one that matters most,” said Kenny Haskell, Timmy and Tommy’s nephew. “9/11 has brought my family together and taught me to live in the now. I’m proud to be a Haskell.”