Edward Lehman was an avid distance runner. Matthew McDermott enjoyed playing golf. John F. Puckett was an accomplished audio engineer and musician. Joseph Zuccala could entertain a crowd. All four Glen Cove men left behind loving families and friends when they died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. Their stories were shared at Glen Cove’s 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Morgan Memorial Park last Saturday.
“Those gathered here today want to ensure that we give proper respect to those we lost on 9/11,” Mayor Tim Tenke said, “and to those lost in ensuing years due to ground zero illnesses related to the attack.”
Tony Jimenez, the city’s director of veterans’ affairs — a volunteer EMS worker 20 years ago who helped in the recovery effort at the World Trade Center site — led the Pledge of Allegiance. Richie Cannata played the national anthem on saxophone, and Rabbi Irwin Huberman, of Congregation Tifereth Israel, led the opening prayer.
Huberman noted that in the Jewish calendar, the 20th anniversary of the attacks fell on the Saturday between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. “It is a difficult day,” Huberman said, “not only for the lost and memories of that day, but also because this is a day of reflection, when we are supposed to apologize to those around us, and we’re supposed to forgive. But, it’s hard to forgive hatred, especially when there is little regret.”
According to the Bible, Huberman said, “When faced with such a dilemma, we rise above hatred and we choose life.”
Several elected officials spoke during the ceremony, including U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, who was the mayor of Glen Cove in 2001, running for Nassau County executive. He said he often reflects on how people thought differently about the world on Sept. 10, 2001. “Everything changed in an instant,” Suozzi said. He recalled how the country united in the aftermath of the attacks, and contrasted that with how “fractured” and “divided” people have become. “Let’s use September 11 as a vehicle by which to recommit ourselves to the things that are important,” he said, “and to remember those basic values that make our lives worthwhile. Otherwise, what was the sacrifice worth?”
State Assemblyman Charles Lavine spoke of the strength that comes when people stand together. “Twenty years ago, 3,000 Americans died doing what we as Americans do every day,” Lavine said. “I know we take it for granted, but I think we’re supposed to take it for granted that we live in a nation where we can get up, we can go to work, we can support our families, we can support our communities, and we can support our state and our nation.”
He called those who perished “soldiers in the war for democracy.”
“They didn’t think of it that way,” Lavine said, “but every day, we as Americans get to stand together, no matter what our backgrounds . . . and that’s what makes us the greatest nation of all time. We are all disparate threats inextricably woven together, and we stand strong to protect one another.”
County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton said that the annual ceremony is important to her for several reasons. “Doing this every year really instills in us the promise we made to never forget, and that we’re always here for the families,” she said. “All of our hearts were broken that day. But it gives us hope. We look around and see our community together … that hope is what we really need.”
There was a flyover by the U.S. Coast Guard; Catherine Dubicki read Michael Puckett’s poem “America”; and tenor Joe Stroppel sang “You Will Never Walk Alone” and “God Bless America.”
Perhaps most touching were the stories about the four local men who were killed in the attacks. City Councilman Rocco Totino read Lehman’s biography, describing a man who loved to run and took part in races for charity. Lehman, 41, an assistant director of risk management at the Aon Corporation, was in his office on the 92nd floor of the south tower when it was hit. He left behind his wife, Joanne, and son, Kenny.
Former Mayor Ralph Suozzi spoke about McDermott, who grew up on Doxey Street in Glen Cove, attended St. Patrick School and lived in Basking Ridge, N.J., at the time of his death. He was 34, a partner at Cantor Fitzgerald who loved to play golf. He was survived by his wife, Susan, and their young daughters, Kara and Kelly. A son, Matthew Michael, was born seven months after his father died.
Pam Panzenbeck spoke on behalf of the Puckett family, reading words written by Puckett’s daughter, Michele Puckett-Formolo. John Puckett, 47, was a sound engineer who worked with artists including Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Paul Anka and Shirley McClaine, and was at work at Windows on the World the morning of the attacks. “Being Michele and Michael’s dad came first and foremost,” Panzenbeck read. “That was something he held true.”
Tina Cammarata spoke about her brother, Joseph Zuccala. “Twenty years ago today, who knew my world could crumble and a piece of me could die?” she said.
Zuccala, Cammarata said, had started a consulting assignment for Fuji Bank only three days earlier. “It was this job that put him on the 81st floor of the south tower, right where the second plane hit,” she said. “Joe was larger than life, in his imposing size and personality. He was charming, enthusiastic and had a great sense of humor. He was always the center of attention — a guy who knew how to draw a crowd and keep them laughing.”
Zuccala, who was 54 when he died, had the ability to make people feel special, his sister said, and touched many lives. “How I knew for sure was the day of his memorial at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. More than 1,000 people attended the Mass.
“Joe loved anything and everything to do with history,” Cammarata added, “so how ironic that he has now become a part of it. I think that if Joe knew he had to say goodbye to his friends and family before everyone was ready, he might’ve been proud to leave during a turning point in our history, the largest terrorist attack on American soil.”
The Rev. Gabriel Rach, of St. Patrick’s Church, said a prayer for the first responders. “Assure them of our gratitude and support,” he intoned, “and give them the strength and courage to continue to serve our community.”