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Freeporters remember 9/11

Eighteen years later, it still hurts

Freeport residents assembled a memorial at Bayview Avenue and Ray Street
Freeport residents assembled a memorial at Bayview Avenue and Ray Street
Courtesy Freeport Long Island History

Freeport Police Chief Miguel Bermudez lost a number of friends in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, including Richard Muldowney Jr., a member of the Freeport Fire Department’s Wide Awake Engine Company No. 1. Muldowney, Bermudez said, rushed into the twin towers with New York Fire Department’s Ladder Co. 7 and never came out. He was 40.

“When people are taken away suddenly,” Bermudez said, “it hurts more.”

Muldowney was a skilled carpenter who could build just about anything, according to messages posted online by family members and friends. He was also a bayman who fished and went crabbing and clamming.

New York City Police Department Officer Robert Fazio, of Freeport, also responded to the World Trade Center. He, too, died trying to rescue people trapped in the buildings. He was 38.

David Garcia, 40, also of Freeport, was a computer programmer at Marsh & McLennan, a global insurance brokerage and risk management firm.

“My soul is forever wounded from your absence,” Deborah Garcia, David’s wife, wrote on the company’s memorial page on April 10, 2002.

The night before the attacks, David was busily fixing his older son’s toy remote-control boat that he found broken in the family’s basement, according to Deborah. After Sept. 11, she found it put back together, she said.

Originally scheduled to be off that Tuesday, Andre Fletcher, 37, a member of the FDNY, went to work because of a staffing shortage. Other firefighters — Timothy Higgins, 43, Michael Kiefer, 25, and David M. Weiss, 41 — also died that day. Freeport librarian Laura Marchese, 35, was working at the Alliance Consulting Group in Tower One that morning.

In June 2003, a white kousa dogwood was planted on the Freeport Memorial Library’s front lawn with a plaque that reads, “In Loving Memory of Our Friend and Fellow Staff Member, Laura Marchese, Victim of September 11, 2011.”

There are memorials dedicated to 9/11 victims throughout the village. Other residents managed to escape the towers’ collapses, or witnessed the destruction from afar. Jeremy Holin, owner of Jeremy’s Ale House on the Nautical Mile, recalls the start of that day as a quiet morning. “There was a crystal-clear blue sky,” Holin said. “Every time I see a sky like that, I refer to it as a 9/11 sky.”

That day, he was at work at the original Jeremy’s, at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport, which hadn’t yet opened for the day, when there was suddenly a commotion on the street. He stepped outside and saw people running.

“Once the second plane hit the building, all hell broke loose,” Holin said. “You could feel the heat coming off the buildings. There was no time to think. The thought of terrorism didn’t cross our minds.”

Many of his regulars sought refuge at the bar, he recounted. He opened immediately, threw hot dogs on the grill and passed out beer. He had a landline that people could call home on.

“Anyone could call anywhere in the world, but I only had one rule: Keep it brief,” Holin said. “Just say, ‘I’m OK. I’ll call you as soon as I can.’”

A plaque that reads “Jeremy’s Safe House” still hangs at the South Street Seaport bar all these years later.

“There were a lot of sacrifices made that day,” Bermudez said. “People went to work, expecting at the end of the day to go home. By 9 a.m. their lives changed.”