In many ways, we failed the victims of 9/11
THE WOODHAVEN BEAT
THE WOODHAVEN BEAT
There was a distinct emotional feeling among attendees at Maspeth Federal Savings’ annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony this year as the community marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
As it is annually, the ceremony was held in front of a 9/11 monument in Maspeth Memorial Park dedicated to the 19 firefighters from Squad 288/HazMat 1 and others from the community who lost their lives on that morning.
The Squad 288/Hazmat 1 firehouse, which is located just off the memorial park, had the single largest loss of firefighters of any FDNY firehouse on September 11.
But this year’s ceremony looked a bit different, with the gate surrounding Memorial Square behind the monument adorned with banners displaying the names of the firefighters from Squad 288/HazMat 1.
Each name was read aloud at the event.
Kenneth Rudzewick, host of the event, cited the importance of holding memorial ceremonies like this one every year.
“This is a 20-year journey that has affected most of our lives, remembering the attack and marking it is vital,” he said. “There is no better way to honor the lives of those heroes taken in 2001 than to protect and honor their fellow rescuers of today.”
The ceremony included words from Vincent Tomeo, a retired high school teacher and poet; music from husband-and-wife duo Bill and Liz Huisman, and the singing of the National Anthem by Kathleen Nealon.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to sit here for the last 20 years,” said Nealon. “I keep all of those who died on 9/11 and their families in my prayers always, as well as those who have died from 9/11-related illnesses and continue to suffer from that day.”
In addition to the 343 firefighters killed directly in the attack, 253 later died due to complications from their rescue work at Ground Zero.
Maspeth Federal Savings continues to honor them and add them to the memorial, including Firefighter Thomas Oelkers, who died just this May from a World Trade Center-related illness.
Congresswoman Grace Meng and Councilman Robert Holden discussed the importance of not only remembering and honoring the lives lost, but also how to carry out justice on their behalf in the present day.
Meng said that Congress is working on a resolution to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 to ensure that New York’s future generations never forget the events of that day.
“We are also working on a bipartisan basis to make sure that we are fully funding the health programs that will benefit so many of the victims’ families and to take care of those who are still with us,” she said.
Holden, alongside the Juniper Park Civic Association, has fought to have the Maspeth firehouse recognized as a landmark. The Landmarks Preservation Commission turned down their request because it was constructed too recently.
“The Landmarks Preservation Commission will have to landmark this,” he said “We’re not going to wait 30 years.”
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the restaurant staff at Windows on the World went about their business as usual on the top floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. They prepared food in the kitchen, served breakfast to the tourists and businessmen outside, and started getting the lunch menu ready.
Within the next few hours, 73 members of the restaurant staff would be dead.
The impact of 9/11 on the Windows on the World restaurant workers has not been forgotten. Every year since the attack, a dedicated group of survivors and organizers has held a vigil to remember their fallen coworkers and friends.
On the 20th anniversary this past weekend, a special vigil was held on the roof of 110 William Street. With a perfect view of One World Trade Center, approximately 45 Windows on the World workers were joined by politicians, dignitaries, and friends for speeches, a candle lighting, and moments of silence.
“Today we honor the 73 restaurant workers who died on September 11,” said Fekkak Mamdouh, an East Elmhurst resident and former worker at Windows on the World. “We should never forget them, their struggle, and their sacrifice.”
Former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the event’s keynote speaker. She discussed the ongoing sacrifices that restaurant workers make during times of hardship, including 9/11 and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m here today to thank all of you for honoring those who were lost and who continue to work and serve,” Clinton said. “People who are working in service, restaurants, and hospitals are always working to make this a better country, and today we remember those workers who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
A number of local politicians were also in attendance, including State Senator John Liu. Speaking to our paper, Liu discussed the ways in which essential workers continue to be a source of inspiration for their communities.
“Twenty years seems like a long time, but I know we all remember September 11, 2001, like it was yesterday,” Liu said. “But as terrible as that day was, in the coming days and years it brought out the best in people across New York City and beyond. We remember the first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice, but we must remember all the service workers that died that fateful day. No one was collateral damage. Every death mattered.”
A mural honoring three local residents killed in the 9/11 attacks has been given new life with a fresh coat of paint.
The faces of Marcello Matricciano, Edward Lehman and James Cartier can be seen on the wall of N&R Deli at the corner of 25th Avenue and 77th Street in East Elmhurst.
Originally painted in 2015 by nonprofit group Groundswell, a restoration process was started after funding was secured by the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber president and CEO Thomas Grech said he noticed the mural was in need of a touch-up during one of his many breakfast trips to the deli. The chamber’s headquarters is located not far away.
“One day in July, the phone started ringing when I was getting my eggs,” said Grech. “I went out to answer the phone and I looked up at this wall. For those of you who haven’t seen it lately, it was starting to peel.”
Soon after, local artists Benny Guerra and Carlo Nieva began scraping and peeling off the old paint that had been weathered and beaten over the past six years.
“We tried to save as much of the original paint as possible,” said Guerra. “By the time we peeled all of it off, about 60 percent of the mural needed attention.”
The artists referenced photographs taken from the mural’s original dedication, applying a coat of primer and color-matching the old and new paint.
The 16-by-40-foot mural will soon be given another clear coat to extend its life even further.
“My favorite part is the integration of the old World Trade Center towers with the Freedom Tower,” said Nieva. “They are patriots.”
Deputy Chief Kevin Williams of the NYPD extended his thoughts to the families of the 9/11 victims who were in attendance for the rededication of the mural.
“I think this is symbolic of the American spirit and the New York spirit,” said Williams. “Over the years, this mural may have been battered and worn, but same thing as that day. We came back, made it stronger, and made our country better.”
John Cartier, the brother of one of the victims honored in the mural, expressed his gratitude for all those involved in restoring the mural. He remembers his brother, who died at 26 years old, as full of life and always having something funny to say.
“I think it’s important as family members to recognize all of you who have carried us through a time of darkness,” said Cartier. “All of you in this neighborhood were the light. You guys gave us hope to continue forward.”