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Sept. 11 victims, heroes honored at Bayside HS

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Armed with music and art, the students and staff of Bayside High School paid stirring tribute last week to the victims and heroes of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in a more than two-hour long event.

Hundreds of people attended the school’s “Night of Reflection and Tribute” Friday, enjoying several musical selections as well as the unveiling of the school’s new mural “An American Tragedy,” an artistic interpretation of the destruction of the Twin Towers.

Among the audience of at least 750 people were a handful of officers from the 111th Police Precinct, Fire Department Chief Dan Nigro and others who had worked at Ground Zero.

Interim Acting Principle Judith Tarlo, who made the night’s opening remarks, said “there is no greater honor that I can think of than to preside over tonight’s program.”

Bayside High School is known for its elite art and music programs, and the skills of the students shone brightly during the event, which featured the precise work of the concert band and the powerful choir, and two talented soloists.

Some of the songs performed included “New York, New York,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Al Santora, a former Parent Teacher Association president at the school whose firefighter son Christopher was killed at the World Trade Center, spoke during the event.

“My son Christopher was a student here,” an emotional Santora began. “He graduated five or six years ago not knowing where he was going. He was a member of the band — he sat here on many occasions, I sat here on many occasions.”

Santora, a retired firefighter, went on to describe how his son became a teacher and then joined the Fire Department. Christopher Santora was finishing his shift Sept. 11 when he joined the rest of his men and rushed to his death at the Twin Towers.

“I just hope in time we all heal, that we all continue to move forward,” Santora told the hushed audience.

He told the students “don’t be angry at your friend, your family or your neighbor — because the next instant could be your last or their last.”

After a lengthy standing ovation for Santora, Nigro also spoke.

Nigro, a graduate of Bayside High School, was promoted to the rank of chief of department after the Sept. 11 attacks decimated the upper ranks of the FDNY.

“I got a letter yesterday,” he said during his remarks. “A man in Houston sent me a letter that said ‘Chief, thank you for giving my son real heroes to look up to.’ The letter had a picture of his kids dressed up like firefighters for Halloween.

“I wrote him back and said ‘my heroes are firefighters, too,’” Nigro said. “What we learned here is that freedom has a price, and on Sept. 11 the Fire Department and the Police Department paid that price.”

Bayside High School Arts Coordinator Aleta Levine dedicated the school’s new mural at the end of the concert.

The mural was created “because we wanted to give our students the opportunity to express their feelings about this event,” she said.

After the concert the audience filed past the new mural, with many placing red, white and blue flowers underneath it as the Bayside High School Gospel Choir sang.

Members of the audience dipped into a basket filled with paper and pens to write down the names of victims they wanted added to the mural. Levine said anyone who would like a name to be put on the list should call the school at 229-7600.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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