Rockville Centre has hosted a ceremony to commemorate the events of Sept. 11, 2001, every year since the terrorist attacks, but organizers are planning an even more special ceremony this year to mark the 20th anniversary.
The village is set to host a 20th Year of Remembrance ceremony on Sunday on the Village Green, at the corner of Lee and Maple avenues. Before the ceremony, a special Mass will be held at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, at 29 Quealy Place, at 5 p.m.
“The ceremony this year is the 20th Year of Remembrance, as we’re calling it, in honor of those murdered on 9/11,” Mayor Francis X. Murray said, “and those people who have died since then who were brave people working on the pile, trying to rescue people.”
Murray will offer the opening remarks at the event, followed by an invocation from the Rev. Michael Duffy, of St. Agnes. Those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 will also be invited to speak, and the names of those who died in the attacks will be read.
Rabbi Michael Cohen, of Central Synagogue-Beth Emeth, will also speak, and the ceremony will include the lighting of remembrance candles and, for the first time, a 21-gun salute. Music will include the national anthem, “America the Beautiful” and taps. Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops will take part as well, along with members of the village police and fire departments. Deputy Mayor Kathleen Baxley will offer the closing remarks.
Judge William Croutier Jr. has arranged the remembrance ceremony over the past two decades, Murray noted. Croutier helped establish Rockville Centre’s We Care Committee, which has raised more than $1 million for families of Sept. 11 victims, and was instrumental in getting the 9/11 memorial built on the Village Green in 2012, with help from the late Anthony Brunetta, the longtime recreation superintendent, and Murray’s father, the late former Mayor Eugene Murray.
“Mr. Brunetta and I had promised the families that we would never forget,” Croutier said in 2019. “You want to make sure that the younger ones coming up now . . . understand how devastating it was.”
Rockville Centre Police Commissioner James Vafeades said it was vital to remember those lives lost that day.
"As many know, the Village of Rockville Centre suffered more than most Long Island communities on 9/11.," he said. "The village takes time every year to remember; and honoring the victims' memory is always important, but on the 20th remembrance, it carries a special significance. The remembrance ceremony allows all of us to take the time to support our friends and neighbors who lost loved ones that day. The members of the Rockville Centre Police Department certainly will never forget."
Murray said there would be several distinguished guests at the event, including State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin and Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito.
When the attacks took place, Eugene Murray was the village’s mayor. Forty-nine of the more than 2,600 people who died in Lower Manhattan were from Rockville Centre, and several more residents have died since then of illnesses related to their work at ground zero.
Mayor Murray said it was vital to keep the tradition of the ceremony alive. “It’s very important that our next generation of Americans never forgets, and some of the people who will be there weren’t even born yet,” he said. “It’s very important we teach them what happened. It was a horrific day, and our community suffered one of the most losses on Long Island.”