Seventeen Years Later, Maspeth Will Never Forget 9/11

Queens Chronicle - September 13, 2018

by Mark Lord

They vowed never to forget.

And they haven’t.

Seventeen years after the terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, a crowd of about 200 people gathered in Maspeth Memorial Park at the intersection of 69th Street and Grand Avenue on Saturday to remember the thousands of lives that were lost.

Joining area residents were members of the FDNY and a handful of elected officials, who united to reflect on the events of that fateful day during a solemn 45-minute ceremony. “I remember that day like it was yesterday,” said Marie Connolly, who has lived in Maspeth for 51 years. “I saw the smoke and all the cars on the bridge. I asked what happened. I thought a small plane went down.”

Connolly was particularly moved by the recollection of Maspeth firefighter Michael Weinberg.

He was on vacation on Sept. 11, 2001, but sped to the World Trade Center, where his sister worked, when he got word of the attack.

The former minor league baseball player — who was named most outstanding player of the 1988 Big East Tournament during his days patrolling the outfield at St. John’s University — was one of the 343 FDNY members killed that day.

“It’s so sad. We have a memorial for him near O’Neills,” Connolly said, referring to the famed nearby restaurant. “God bless Michael.”

Denise Holloway came from Flushing for the ceremony.

“We have to remember those who perished,” Holloway said. “I was always at the World Trade Center. That was like my second home.”

She recalled last seeing the buildings the Thursday before Sept. 11.

“We rose above the attacks,” she said. “We are a great country.”

Relatives of some of the victims attended with family members too young to remember for themselves.

Lisa Gallo was there to honor the memory of her brother, Cono Gallo, one of 69 Carr Futures employees who perished in the attack.

“He reported to work and the rest is history,” Gallo said.

Her brother’s remains were never recovered, but Gallo said she finds comfort in attending the annual ceremony.

This year she brought along two of her nephews, 10-year-old Cono Dalton, named after her late brother, and the boy’s 12-year-old brother, Alexander.

“It’s a way for his memory to live on. It’s important for them to know the impact of that day,” she said.

In his opening remarks, Kenneth Rudzewick, who served as master of ceremonies, suggested such memorial events are particularly important for young people.

“Who else will let them know?” he asked. “It is up to us.”

Other participants in the ceremony included Kathleen Nealon, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner;” FDNY Chaplain the Rev. Joseph Hoffman, who offered opening and closing prayers; Liz and Bill Huisman, who performed moving vocal renditions of “Go Rest High On That Mountain” and “Amazing Grace,” inspiring some in the crowd to sing along; Vincent Tomeo, who presented two of his original poems; and Mike Aylward, who read the names of each of the 26 victims who had lived or worked in the area.

Among those named were 11 members of the Hazmat 1 unit of the FDNY and eight members of Squad 288 — both units are stationed in the firehouse at 56-29 68 St. in Maspeth.

The 19 individuals represented the single largest loss of first responders from any FDNY firehouse in the city.

There were several particularly emotional moments during the ceremony. One was the laying of a wreath by FDNY members at a monument that had been previously erected in the park. Another came during the reading of the names, as a small American flag honoring each of the victims was placed in a semicircle in front of the monument.

Among those bearing flags were some of the victims’ relatives, several too young to remember what happened that morning 17 years ago.

But the residents of Maspeth are doing whatever they can to make sure the events of that day are never forgotten.