Hundreds gather in Valley Stream to mark 16th anniversary of Sept. 11


Pat Fennelly went to three Sept. 11 ceremonies this year wearing a photograph of her brother paper-clipped to her jacket: one at Eisenhower Park, one in Floral Park and one at the Arthur J. Hendrickson Park in Valley Stream. But, the ceremony in Valley Stream held the most meaning for her.

“This is so personal to have this here,” said Fennelly, of Massapequa. “We lived in Valley Stream, we grew up in Valley Stream,” she said of herself and her brothers. Fennelly and hundreds of others gathered behind Central High School on Monday to mark the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

One of her brothers, Robert Caufield, served as a lieutenant in the Valley Stream Fire Department and worked for years as an electrician at the World Trade Center. She said he was transferred to a job on Park Avenue in July 2001, but on Sept. 10 his boss asked if Caufield could bring tools to the twin towers the next day. Caufield did not survive.

“He happened to be there at the wrong time, but that was God’s plan,” Fennelly said.

Six years ago, the village added a memorial site dedicated to the attacks, with a steel beam from the towers positioned on two cement columns that point toward 1 World Trade Center. In 2015, the village acquired two saplings that grew out of the charred trunk of a Callery pear tree that was unearthed from the rubble of the towers.

At each year’s ceremony, Mayor Ed Fare asks community members to lay roses from De Palma Florist on a steel beam recovered from the wreckage. Fennelly has attended since the village began hosting the ceremony in 2002.

George and Naomi Lewis, of Valley Stream, also attend the ceremony each year to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives. “We do this every year and show some support,” said George. “We’re transported Jamaicans, but me and my wife are now Americans, and we’re proud of it.”

The Lewises said they lost someone that day, but declined to say who. “We were just waiting, and couldn’t see that person come home,” George said.

The Rev. Philip Jones, of the Valley Stream Presbyterian Church, was in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001. He said he was stopped on the A line at the World Trade Center subway stop when he heard someone mention a plane. Jones said he did not know what the man was talking about until he got off the subway at Times Square hours later and his wife called to asked him if he was OK.

Several weeks later, Jones said, he returned to ground zero. “It was just a breathtaking piece of scenery,” he said.

After 16 years, though, younger generations no longer have personal stories from that day.

“As an educator in the Valley Stream Central High School District, last week I faced my incoming eighth-grade classes and realized that these students had yet to be born on Sept. 11, 2001,” Fare, who teaches at South and Central high schools, told the crowd. “To them, what took place on 9/11 is history that is almost two decades old. In our schools and in our homes, it is our job to remind, inform and educate them and all future generations of the significance and impact of those events.”

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