by Jason D. Antos
September 15, 2010
The United Community Civic Association (UCCA) and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANY/NJ) held their ninth annual Memorial Candlelight Ceremony in McManus Memorial Park, 81st Street and the Grand Central Parkway service road in Astoria Heights, commemorating those who lost their lives in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Community leaders attended the September 7 event, including members of the NYPD, FDNY, PANY/NJ and families and friends of loved ones who were lost.
The ceremony began with opening remarks by UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo, followed by the Rev. Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria, who delivered the invocation and a blessing for all those who perished and for their surviving family members.
“Bless all the first responders who died while performing good deeds,” Ferrarese said.
Also present were Timothy Motto, former president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), City Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr., Assemblymembers Michael Gianaris and Michael DenDekker, state Senator George Onorato and his wife, Athena Onorato, Senator Jose Peralta, Congressmembers Joseph Crowley, Anthony Weiner and Carolyn Maloney and candidate for Assembly Aravella Simotas. Claudia Filomena representing the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYC Department of Correction Commissioner Dora Schriro.
More than 300 residents, some who sat on the front steps of their homes across the street from the park, were also in attendance.
“We gather here at this Memorial grove of trees to once again pay tribute to and honor those innocent souls, ordinary everyday people, and heroic, not so ordinary first responders, who went to work never to return to their loved ones,” Poveromo said.
Since 2002, McManus Memorial Park has been the site of a memorial tree. The memorial also includes an illuminated pole symbolizing the vertical beams of light that was displayed at the World Trade Center site following the attacks in 2001.
LaGuardia Airport General Manager Warren Kroeppel spoke in remembrance of the 84 Port Authority personnel who perished, 37 of whom were police officers.
Keynote speakers included Maureen and Al Santora, whose son, Christopher, was the youngest New York City firefighter to die at Ground Zero, Arlene Howard, mother of George Howard, a Port Authority Police Officer who responded though on his day off, and John Cartier, whose brother, James, and friend, Lester Marino, members of Local Union 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, were working at the World Trade Center during the attacks. Howard is an honorary member of the FOP.
As the candles were lit, family members, accompanied by the color guard, laid wreaths beneath the beam of light while the choir from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church, under the direction of Lucille Mascia, sang a hymn.
“The events of September 11th showed us that hatred is a terrible thing,” Maureen Santora said. “Tonight’s gathering sends a message that we must never forget.”
As the ceremony continued, Howard delivered a message of love and sacrifice.
“My son was off from work that day, but he knew that it was his duty to go to the Twin Towers to help and for that I am proud and truly grateful,” she declared.
Cartier spoke about his brother, James, and the final conversation between James and his sister that took place 20 minutes before the South Tower collapsed.
“The last words my brother said to my sister was that he was with a lot of people and that they were looking for a way down,” Cartier said. “That means he was alive when the tower collapsed.”
Cartier also responded strongly to comments made to him in the days leading up to the ceremony about moving on and the necessity of annual memorials.
“As long as I have breath in my body I will continue to remember my brother [and] our friend Lester Marino, and we will continue to hold services like this one every year until we are all gone,” he told the gathering.
Cartier, a founding member of the American Brotherhood motorcycle club created on Sept. 13, 2002, participates in many community events including food drives at local food pantries and visits to VA hospitals, where his group members lend a helping hand. He spent many days at the disaster site searching for his brother.
Crowley, Weiner and Maloney spoke on the issue of passing legislation that will help provide healthcare benefits for those who have incurred illnesses while helping at the World Trade Center in the days following the attacks. All pledged to continue the battle to secure passage of the bill.
“Our goal is to make this a kinder and more understanding world,” Maloney said.
Towards the ceremony’s conclusion, the New York City Department of Corrections Pipe Band played “Amazing Grace”.
Rabbi Joel C. Shoulson of the Congregation Sons of Israel played a shofar horn in remembrance of those who were lost.
“Father Mychal Judge, Chaplain of the NY Fire Department who died in the Towers spoke these words the day before he was murdered, ‘Hold on to memory, hold on to the moment, and above all, hold on to each other.’” Shoulson said.
The ceremony was made possible through the efforts of Poveromo and the UCCA, Kroeppel and LaGuardia Airport Deputy General Manager Thomas Bosco.