Approximately 200 local residents gathered behind New Hyde Park Fire Department headquarters on Jericho Turnpike on Friday night to participate in the dedication of the department’s 9/11 memorial.
The dedication ceremonies topped off a two-year effort to plan and build the memorial, to honor the memory of New Hyde Park natives and residents. It prominently features a 16-square-inch piece of steel from the wreckage of the twin towers.
“We remember how clear the sky was that day. It’s hard to assign meaning to what we saw that day. And it feels like yesterday—and a world away,” said New Hyde Park Fire Department Chaplain Dan Olson during his opening prayer at the outset of the ceremonies, concluding, “We pray for healing. We pray for our nation.”
Michael Bonura, chairman of the board of New Hyde Park Fire Commissioners, said the goal in building the monument was “to remember what we lost 15 years ago.”
Bonura praised fellow fire commissioner John Waldron for his part in the 9/11 project.
The steel from the twin towers is the central element in the memorial located in one corner of the fire department headquarters parking lot. Mounted on a stainless steel base, the metal ridge in the middle of it makes it look like a wordless, sacred book.
Names of 14 New Hyde Park natives and residents who were September 11 victims, are on two walls of the memorial’s three walls. In the case of New York City Police officers Robert Ehmer and Gerard Beyrodt, both New Hyde Park residents, died from illnesses believed to result from time they spent at Ground Zero. Two firefighters who grew up in New Hyde Park, Kenneth Kumpel and Michael Montessi, died among other New York Fire Department first responders.
The memorial also includes a second generation sapling from a pear tree that famously survived the devastation at Ground Zero on September 11. The towers are represented in the New Hyde Park memorial by two six-foot white lucite towers that stand behind the steel shard and are lit at night.
The fire district obtained the steel relic from the New York Fire Department in November last year during the push to complete the memorial in time for the 15th anniversary.
The central panel of the three-wall red brick memorial displays a depiction in bronze of what happened in Manhattan, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, PA on September 11, 2001 on the day the towers fell.
Architect Kenneth Garvin, a New Hyde Park resident, designed the monument.
“To the families who lost loved ones, we will not forget,” said New Hyde Park Mayor Robert Lofaro.
Michael McBride, director of the New Hyde Park Funeral Home, donated a marble bench on behalf of the Katie McBride Foundation to provide a place to sit at the memorial.
McBride created the foundation to honor the memory of his 11-year-old daughter, Katie, a cancer victim. He said he was grateful for the fire department’s support of Katie’s Run, an annual event he also created in his daughter’s memory to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House.
“We shall keep the events of that day in our hearts and carry the memories with us as we move forward,” said Father Frank Grieco, pastor of Holy Spirit Church, in blessing the memorial.
In recounting the effort that began with conceiving the project five years ago, ex-Chief James Kane said the objective was to create “a place for solace and contemplation” for those who lost loved ones in the attack on the towers.
“I’m a New York City fireman who lost a lot of friends that day,” Kane said, explaining his motivation after the dedication ceremonies.
Names of the New Hyde Park dead were read on Friday night, as a single bell tolled for each person lost.
Family members hung their names, engraved on bronze plates, on the memorial.
After Kane spoke, Joseph Connor played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.
Family members of those who died were invited to lay white roses on the monument at the conclusion of the ceremonies.
As residents walked around the memorial afterward, four white roses adorned the scarred steel from the fallen towers.