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College Point remembers its war veterans

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College Point residents came out in droves to support their community’s Memorial Day Parade Sunday and its “United We Stand” theme.

Mayor Bloomberg joined the parade’s grand marshal, state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Fresh Meadows) in the crowded, yet solemn march down College Point Boulevard from 26th Avenue to Herman A. MacNeil Park.

The mayor, who addressed seniors as the parade stopped at Woodcrest Nursing Home, asked celebrators to remember fallen soldiers, victims of the World Trade Center attack, war veterans, and those who protect freedom in the U.S. armed forces around the globe.

“It’s a day unfortunately different than last year because we now in addition have 400 firefighters and police officers who gave their lives on Sept. 11,” Bloomberg said. “We should not forget those who made a sacrifice for us.”

Marchers and watchers did indeed remember the source of their freedom during this Memorial Day.

Mayersohn said Sept. 11 “changed everything.”

“People now know it can happen here and it did happen here. There was a time people didn’t talk about patriotism. Now people say this is the greatest country in the world,” she added.

According to several marchers and bystanders, turnout for the parade was the largest in several years. Military officers, who arrived in New York via boat for Fleet Week, local and Long Island firehouses, Boy Scouts, a few high school marching bands, and College Point Little League, to name just a few groups, took part in the parade.

“It was bigger than we had expected,” said Frank Devereaux, the community affairs officer from the 109th Precinct in Flushing. He said the police had no estimate on the number of people watching and participating, but the crowd appeared larger than in years past.

For some the memory of Sept. 11 was still fresh and painful. Paula Ronan said her daughter’s fiancé, Thomas Casoria of Whitestone, was killed working as a firefighter during the World Trade Center collapse. The couple was planning to wed just a month after the attack.

Still, Ronan took some comfort in the parade. “It’s very difficult. It’s very emotional because we have lost so many. You need to see people pull together especially in times like now when we don’t know what is going to happen.”

“Rather than laughing and cheering...there is more pride for Memorial Day,” said a young man born in India, but now an American citizen.

Another College Point woman thought of the families of the victims of Sept. 11. “It’s a shame all those firefighters and police officers had to die. There’s so many children left without families,” she said.

Before the parade kicked off, state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) remembered another College Point hero. He spoke about Conrad Poppenhusen, a German immigrant who lived in the area around the time of the Civil War and helped to boost the community’s economy and social services by building a rubber factory, schools, and a library.

The parade passed a memorial to Poppenhusen and finished at MacNeil Park, which has 136 crosses representing College Point’s war dead since the Civil War, and the mayor made some final remarks.

“Before you go to bed, try to picture all those who make this the greatest country in the world,” Bloomberg said. “Say ‘thank you’ to God and to all those that came before us and gave their lives.”

Whitestone also celebrated with a Memorial Day parade Monday. Capt. Thomas Feeks, a retired U.S. Navy pilot, led a crowd of about 300 marchers and four bands as the parade’s grand marshal.

Bloomberg also stopped by the Whitestone parade and was joined by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

The Whitestone parade was organized by the Whitestone Veterans Memorial Association, comprised of the American Legion Post 131, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4787 and Jewish War Veterans Post 415.

    --Alexander Dworkowitz contributed to this story

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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