It’s been 22 years since our world changed forever when our nation was attacked. But for so many like Susan Hutchins, it still feels like Sept. 11, 2001 — the day she lost her son, West Hempstead’s Kevin Nathaniel Colbert, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
“Kevin was an amazing brother, nephew, godson, cousin and friend,” Hutchins told the crowd that gathered at Eisenhower Park’s Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre for Nassau County’s 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony.
“Today is so unsettling. And, quite frankly, as emotionally painful as it was that day. Aug. 26 was my son’s 46th birthday. That last time I saw him, he was 25. In the blink of an eye, another day. Another week. Another month. Another year. It’s all passed. It’s 2023, and most people here are stuck in 2001.”
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman put together the ceremony and musical tribute, which moved forward despite the threat of thunderstorms last week — which didn’t arrive until the ceremony was over. While the primary focus was remembering each of the 349 people from Nassau County who died as a result of 9/11, Blakeman also wanted Monday’s ceremony to be inspirational.
To help, he brought in internationally renowned classical singer Christopher Macchio, to perform everything from “Ave Maria” to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
“Remember them,” Blakeman said of those who were lost, including his own nephew, Thomas Jurgens. “Remember and comfort their families. And know, today, we stand together as a united county, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, political party. Today, we are one — just as America was on Sept. 12, 2001, when our nation came together to fight terrorism.”
While many of the names read, like Colbert, worked in the World Trade Center towers, many more were first responders from the New York City Fire Department and the New York Police Department among others, trying to rescue as many people as they could.
“Remember those who made the supreme sacrifice,” Blakeman said. “It was first responders running in to save people’s lives. And also the time to realize that innocent people just going to work that day, minding their own business, were murdered by terrorists. We will never forget them, and we will never, ever stop comforting those families who lost their loved ones on that day.”
Not far from the ceremony stands two stainless steel towers set inside a fountain remember all who were lost in the World Trade Center. Two steel girders recovered from the twin towers site were added to the monument in 2021.
A memorial wall there bears the names of those lost. And next to Eisenhower Park’s Veterans Memorial is a separate memorial site featuring a red granite monument honoring county firefighters who died from illnesses because of their attempts to rescue people in the days following the terrorist attacks.
“Don’t take anyone for granted,” Hutchins said. “I don’t know if we have one life, or many lives. I’m not even sure if there’s life after death. What I do know is all the time with family and friends is important before they are gone, and you are gone.”
Additional reporting by Rachele Terranova