East Williston’s Village Green grew brighter with candlelight Sunday evening, as residents passed flames from one candle to others until the entire crowd of about 150 had one.
Ceremonies such as East Williston’s remembering the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are like those candles, shining through the pall that still hangs over many communities 15 years later, state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) said at an event in Williston Park Sunday afternoon.
“It’s really important that we do take these opportunities to light that candle, and to remember that Sept. 11, 2001, is not just simply a date in the textbooks, not just another paragraph or footnote, but literally was the day that our lives and our world changed,” Martins told a crowd of about 150 at Kelleher Field.
What Martins called “the darkest of days” continues to bring some good to those it affected, uniting the country after an unprecedented tragedy and reminding citizens of what is really important, said speakers at Sunday’s 9/11 commemorations in the Willistons and Mineola.
In all, 2,977 people died in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and on a plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pa. Eight were from Williston Park and East Williston, and three were from Mineola.
Many public officials on Sunday noted that thousands of others, including many first-responders, continue suffer from health problems caused by exposure to toxins at Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan.
“Time may pass, people may move on, but for many, and for a variety of reasons, Sept. 11 is not over,” said Village of Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, who as a New York City police officer worked to rescue people from the rubble after the attacks.
While the nation lost its sense of freedom and innocence that day, the rescue and recovery effort helped it find a sense of freedom, courage and teamwork that “point to the best of America,” Strauss said at Mineola’s remembrance at Memorial Park.
The attacks threatened American values such as the freedoms of speech, religion and political choice, things embodied by the school, library and private homes surrounding the park, said Jim Sherry, a Mineola native and former deputy commissioner for the state Office of Homeland security.
But the bravery that followed reflects the importance of those values and their physical embodiments, Sherry said.
“It is deep within the DNA of Americans to overcome adversity, to have faith, to shape their own destiny and to believe in a bright future, even on the rainiest of days,” Sherry told the crowd of about 175.
East Williston has held its candlelight ceremony since the first year after the attacks, East Williston Mayor David Tanner said.
The fact that so many people still attend shows the event that changed the nation has created lasting bonds within the village, he said.
“Fifteen years later, look how we remember it, the impact it had and how it’s improved the way we are as a community,” Tanner said. “Just look around us here — it was a turning point, obviously. It’s also about, again, how we celebrate our community, how we celebrate the remembrance of those poor people who just went to work, like any other day, to make a living.”