Memorial ceremony remembers those lost on 9/11
By Jessica Meditz
In true “Maspeth is America” fashion, residents gathered on Grand Avenue to remember Sept. 11, 2001, 21 years later.
At a ceremony held by Maspeth Federal Savings at Maspeth Memorial Park, the community honored the firefighters of Squad 288/Hazmat 1 who perished in the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers.
Squad 288/Hazmat 1 had the single largest loss of firefighters of any FDNY firehouse.
Kenneth Rudzewick, emcee of the event, cited the importance of holding memorial ceremonies like this one every year, “We gather here in Maspeth and across America to mark the unfinished work of remembering. There will never be a time when this work is finished.”
“I’m sure you, as I do, remember what you were doing and how you received the dreadful news on 9/11. That day changed the lives of everyone in America,” he continued.
Like Rudzewick, other longtime guests took part in the event — including Msgr. Joseph Calise of St. Stan’s; Vincent Tomeo, retired high school teacher and poet; Bill and Liz Huisman, a husband and wife musical duo; Mike Aylward, who read the names of the fallen first responders; John Christ, who performed “Taps” and Kathleen Nealon, who sang the national anthem.
“It’s an honor to sit here today in memory of all those who lost their lives on 9/11 as well as those who continue to die of 9/11-related illnesses,” Nealon said. “I keep them and their families in my prayers always. God bless them and God bless America.”
The memorial especially honored Maspeth residents who perished as a result of the 9/11 attacks.
Local elected officials joined the community in remembrance, including Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Councilman Robert Holden and State Senator Michael Gianaris.
They discussed the importance of not only remembering and honoring the lives lost in the present, but also how to carry out their memory to future generations.
“For these memories to live on, for the sacrifices to be remembered, they have to be taught…I saw as the flags are being laid so many future generations here, and it’s on us to make sure they don’t forget what happened,” Gianaris said.
“It’s important to learn the lessons of those days, the lessons of sacrificing for freedom, the lessons of selflessness and of giving one’s life to save others,” he continued. “As time goes on, it will be on us to find people who didn’t experience it, who will continue to teach the lesson.”
Holden echoed his sentiment, and emphasized his wish to see the Maspeth firehouse recognized as a landmark.
He alongside the Juniper Park Civic Association have fought for this, however The Landmarks Preservation Commission turned down their request, because it has been less than 30 years — much to his dismay.
He also reminisced on the sense of solidarity among New Yorkers and Americans following the attack, and hopes to see it return.
“Remembering the days following 9/11, everybody was together, everybody was cheering on first responders. Everybody was thanking them. We were united; we were a true United States,” he said.
“We have to get that back again…in my lifetime, I’ve never seen us so divided. We probably haven’t been this divided since the Civil War,” he continued.” So we have an urgent responsibility as elected officials to unite our constituents on a common cause to keep us safe.”