East Rockaway honors fallen heroes of Sept. 11, 2001


“At the beginning of the year and at its end, we remember them,” said Rabbi Andrew Warmflash of the Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Centre, reciting a prayer from the Jewish tradition. “For as long as we live, they too will live. For they are a part of us, as we remember them.”

East Rockaway hosted its annual ceremony in Memorial Park on Monday to remember all those who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Dozens of East Rockaway residents were in attendance along with elected officials, firefighters and police officers.

Members of the Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the East Rockaway Fire Department presented the colors. The ceremony began with Ken Gilloon Jr. playing the “Bagpipe March,” which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Trustee Rich Bilello. Gilloon later played “Amazing Grace,” and Peter Rapanaro sang the National Anthem and later, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

Speakers included Deputy Mayor Theresa Gaffney, who also read the names of those with ties to East Rockaway who died in the attacks, Town of Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, Pastor Mark Lukens of Bethany Congregational Church and Mayor Bruno Romano, who urged people to never forget the darkest day in the history of the United States.

“What the deadliest attack on America did not do was fracture our way of life,” Romano said while standing next to a steel beam that was recovered at Ground Zero. “It actually did the opposite. It brought us together. As one community. As one nation. As one group of people.”

Father Charles Romano of St. Raymond’s Church and Pastor Steve Hurkens of the Church of the Nazarene presented the closing prayer.

Gaffney revealed the dedication of the survivor tree. After Sept. 11, a pear tree withstood the attacks on the World Trade Center and, after being recovered from the rubble at Ground Zero, rehabilitated. It has since produced seedlings that have been planted at memorials all over the world — including in East Rockaway.

“We need to make sure that all of the youth of today and tomorrow learn from the events of Sept. 11, 2001,” Gaffney said. … “We need to teach them what it taught us. To be better people to one another. To live our lives loving, not hating. There is nothing that we can not overcome and get through, together.”