Vigilant officials recall sacrifices so many made Sept. 11

Vigilant officials recall sacrifices so many made Sept. 11
Great Neck and the Town of North Hempstead held Sept. 11 remembrance ceremonies on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer DeSena)

Great Neck’s annual Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony was held on an overcast Sunday morning at Ielpi Firefighters Park.

First responders throughout the peninsula gathered in front of the statue in Great Neck Plaza that was erected following the loss of former Vigilant Fire Department member Jonathan Ielpi. ​​Ielpi’s life was one of the hundreds throughout Nassau County that was taken by the terrorist acts that destroyed the World Trade Center 21 years ago. 

His memory is also kept intact by his  No. 16 high school hockey jersey hanging from the Saddle Rock Bridge, where the view of the city skyline is straight ahead.

Rabbi Marim Charry, a longtime Vigilant member, provided the opening prayer for the ceremony and shined a light on the difference between remembrance and not forgetting the terrorist attacks.

“Remembrance is an intellectual process, ‘do not forget’ is an action,” he said. “We have come together here today to take action.”

By being in attendance and always keeping in mind what took place more than two decades ago, Charry said, everyone is pledging to do what they can to fight terrorism. Vigilant Chief Justin Sachmechi said the reason people climb 100 flights of stairs each year and the reason that two light beams shine where the Twin Towers once stood is not only to remember the tragedy that occurred that September morning in 2001, but not to forget the sacrifice so many, including Ielpi, made to keep the American population safe.

“Through your attendance here,” Sachmechi told the public Sunday, “you will be a part of the reason that those sacrifices were not in vain.”

Sirens sounded throughout the peninsula Sunday morning in recognition of each of the attacks that occurred 21 years ago. Sachmechi urged those in attendance to remember the local lives that were taken fighting the terrorists.

Political and religious leaders shared their memories of that terrible day during the Town of North Hempstead’s ceremony at Manhasset Valley Park Sunday morning. The park’s Sept. 11 memorial, a 19-foot beam from the World Trade Center, served as a backdrop as residents and first responders in attendance looked on.

“No amount of words said can truly capture the horrors we witnessed on Sept. 11, 2001,” said Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena. “It’s one of the few moments in history where all of us will forever have crystal clear memories of where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news.”

Town Clerk Ragini Srivastava led the program as council members recited the names of the victims from their districts. Attendees also observed two moments of silence at 8:46 a.m.. when Flight 11, slammed into the North Tower, and 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hit the South Tower.

Mayor Bonnie Parente of East Williston recited a resident’s poem, “Angels of America.” The St. Mary’s Chamber Choir also performed “America the Beautiful” and the National Anthem.

Dr. Isma Chaudhry, the president of the Islamic Center of Long Island, asked those who experienced 9/11 to continue telling their stories.

“I distinctly remember that crisp morning and the shock that we endured as a nation, as [humans], that still runs in our veins and across our spines,” she said. “There are children who will learn about 9/11 from textbooks — and from us.”

Chaudry said despite the carnage, the stories that can be told could offer important lessons.

Rabbi Osher Kravitsky of Chabad of Great Neck was among the three religious leaders to speak. During his remarks, he spoke of community and the fragility of life.

“Each and every one of us is responsible for our own homes, our own communities, for each other,” said Kravitskty. “It’s very easy to blame others, but we need to be accountable. This is a wake-up call for us to love each other, to respect each other regardless of where we come from or where we are going. We’re all here in this modern world to make it better.”

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