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Community boards unite to honor the lost

More than 500 Queens residents attended an evening of prayer and remembrance last Thursday in Forest Park’s George Seuffert Bandshell to honor those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The vigil, sponsored by Community Board 9, with support from Community Boards 5, 6, 8 and 10, featured patriotic music, salutes to New York City’s uniformed personnel and calls for unity and tolerance as the nation struggles to come to terms with the events of the past five weeks.

Presentations were made on behalf of the community boards to thank the Police Department, Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, Parks Department, Sanitation Department, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Jamaica Hospital for their response to the disaster.

Community Board 9 Chairman Paul Sapienza paid tribute to those who gave their lives to save others.

“To so value human life that they would risk their lives to save others, to rush in as others rush out, they are truly angels that walk amongst us,” he said. He described them as “extremists in the culture of life and humanity.”

Sapienza encouraged Queens residents to honor the heroes by promoting love and tolerance for people of different faiths and appearances. “Those who seek to destroy us do so because they cannot accept freedom,” he said.

He urged those gathered not to “paint all people of the Muslim faith or Arabic heritage” with negative images.

Residents from throughout Queens showed up carrying signs that read “God Bless America” and “United We Stand.”

“This is a great loss to us all in America,” said Rosemary Ciulla-Frisone, an Ozone Park resident who joined the Forest Park gathering. “This is the first time we’ve seen everyone together.”

Mike Brincot of Howard Beach said he came to the vigil to “show support for the United States and the community.”

Nellie Garcia of Woodhaven, who brought her elderly mother and two children, felt a need to congregate with others. “We want to be with everybody,” she said.

Students from St. Thomas Apostle school in Woodhaven carrying handmade signs and youngsters from the Forest Park Golden Eagles track team holding candles and American flags also came.

At one point, about 10 children from the track team marched toward a group of firefighters from Ladder Co. 143 who had come to participate in the vigil. “This night is for you,” one of the youngsters said to the firefighters.

Before the service concluded, EMS representative Eric Eisenzopf played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes and religious leaders from across the borough led a special joint prayer. Representatives of the Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish faiths each read portions of the prayer.

Rabbi Daniel Sokoloff of the Kew Gardens Synagogue concluded, asking God to “allow us all to come together as a nation, to stand tall and united, so that we might help each other in our hour of need.”

Reach Reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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