On September 11, 2001, residents retreated to the beach at Point Lookout to witness the smoke rising in the distance in the place where the Twin Towers once stood. Twenty years later, Supervisor Don Clavin and the Hempstead Town Board hosted a sunrise memorial ceremony in that same location to honor the memory of the men and women we lost on that tragic day, as well as those who have died years later as a result of 9/11-related illnesses. The town’s sunrise memorial ceremony on the beach, the largest on Long Island, was held at Town Park Point Lookout. Supervisor Clavin was joined by Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, Councilman Bruce Blakeman, Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, Councilman Dennis Dunne, Sr., Councilman Tom Muscarella, Councilman Chris Carini, Town Clerk Kate Murray and Receiver of Taxes Jeanine Driscoll.
“Twenty years ago, the Town of Hempstead made a promise to our community that we would ‘never forget’ the victims of September 11, 2001, nor the sacrifices made by the police officers, firefighters and other first responders who saved countless lives on that tragic day,” stated Supervisor Clavin. “This sunrise ceremony on the beach has always been a place of remembrance and reflection for the many families and friends whose wounds will never truly heal. We were honored to join together for this important event to honor the memories of those we lost.”
Attendees were welcomed to Point Lookout by patriotic American flag arches provided courtesy of the Point Lookout/Lido, Island Park, Baldwin and Merrick Fire Departments. The Rockville Centre Fire Department provided a color guard unit, which was escorted by bagpiper Charlie Armstrong of the Clan Gordon Highlanders of Locust Valley. The Gregorian Consortium from Kellenberg Memorial High School, which has been a longtime participant in the ceremony, returned for the 20th anniversary event.
Remarks were also given by Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman, who lost a family member on September 11, 2001, as well as New York State Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin. NYPD Det. Vincent DeMarino was the keynote speaker, and discussed the heroic actions and legacy of his father, North Valley Stream resident and NYPD Deputy Chief Vincent A. DeMarino. Deputy Chief DeMarino was a 9/11 first responder who died of a 9/11-related illness in 2019. All four of his children followed in their father’s footsteps to become members of the NYPD.
The Invocation was offered by Rev. Michael Duffy, Rector of St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre; a letter from Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky was read by Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito; Fred McFarland of the Levittown Fire Department sang his signature rendition of “God Bless the USA; and the Rev. Dr. Eric Mallette of Greater Second Baptist Church in Freeport provided powerful and inspirational remarks to close out the ceremony.
“As someone who has served on the Hempstead Town Board for more than two decades, I have watched this annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony grow over the years and have seen firsthand how much the event means to all of the families who were impacted by the September 11, 2001 attacks,” said Senior Councilwoman Goosby.
“As someone who lost a close family member in the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001, it is so critical that we join together in remembrance of those who perished that day, and the brave men and women who have died as a result of illnesses related to their 9/11 rescue and recovery efforts,” Councilman Bruce Blakeman said. “My nephew Thomas Jurgens was a brave military veteran, volunteer firefighter and senior court officer who served his nation and community with pride, which was reflected in his final moments as he tried to rescue people from the burning Twin Towers. We will always remember and honor Thomas and all of the heroes of 9/11.”
“As a former NYPD Detective and fire chief, I have enormous respect for the police and firefighters who gave their lives to protect people on September 11, 2001, and great sympathy for the families of the victims of that tragic day,” said Councilman D’Esposito. Added Councilman Dunne, “Today, we remember the victims of September 11th and vow to their families and to our entire community that we will ‘Never Forget.’ As a veteran of the Vietnam War who served in the Marine Corps, I want to especially recognize and thank all the brave men and women of our military who have served overseas to protect our freedoms and liberties in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.”
“I am proud to join with Supervisor Clavin, my fellow board members and residents from across the Town of Hempstead to honor the memory of the victims of September 11, 2001 and recognize the sacrifices made by all of our first responders,” said Councilman Muscarella. Added Councilman Carini, “As a former police officer, I have many friends and neighbors who were greatly impacted by the events of September 11, 2001. It’s critically important that we continue to hold events like this one to remember them and all the victims of 9/11.”
Guests were invited to cast white carnations into the Atlantic Ocean, write messages on the Remembrance Wall, followed by a post-event visit to the town’s adjacent 9/11 Memorial Park. The park features an elevated memorial walkway with the names of the victims of the terrorist attacks (including those who have died in recent years) memorialized in granite on the edifice of a pedestrian bridge. The town provided paper and pencils so residents could etch the names of their beloved friends and family members. The memorial also includes a 30-foot-tall beam from the north tower of the World Trade Center, and a giant memorial table inscribed with Walt Whitman’s “On the Beach at Night.”
“The Town of Hempstead’s 9/11 memorial ceremony has always been special because it allows family and friends to mourn and reflect in their own way,” concluded Supervisor Clavin. “America’s largest township will continue to hold this event every year to make good on our promise to ‘Never Forget’ September 11, 2001.”