Crowd flocks to Unisphere for Sept. 11 tribute concert

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With candles in their hands and blankets at their feet, more than a thousand people went to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to listen to the Queens Symphony Orchestra as the sun set a year after the terrorist assault on the World Trade Center.

The concert was coordinated with four similar events in the other boroughs. The crowd watched a satellite feed from Lower Manhattan that showed the singing of “America the Beautiful” before the Bayside High School Concert Choir and the Queens Symphony Orchestra began playing in the shadow of the Unisphere.

“There are many religions that believe a year past a tragedy you recommemorate it to bring a sense of closure,” said Herb Chain, the president of the Queens Symphony Orchestra.

Candles were passed out at the event, which was organized by the city Department of Cultural Affairs. Although winds from nearby Hurricane Gustav drowned out the music at certain points, many in the crowd managed to keep their flames lit emptying water bottles that had been providing and placing the candles inside.

Unlike many other events on the same day, there were no speeches with only Mayor Michael Bloomberg providing a few words over the satellite feed. Many brought small American flags, and chants of “USA” rang out at the beginning of the concert.

Jeffrey Biegel, who played piano for George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” said the event marked the first time the piece had been played in full in the borough.

“I feel very honored to be here,” Biegel said. “My father is a retired police captain from Queens.”

Lisa Mohan of Richmond Hill said she and her family went to Flushing Meadows because she wanted to attend a Sept. 11 memorial event within the borough.

“We’re from Queens, and I worked at the World Trade Center a few years before the incident,” said Mohan, who now works as an administrative assistant across the street from Ground Zero.

Henry Schlanger of Bayside had retired from Morgan Stanley, which was based in the World Trade Center, just months before the terrorist attacks after working with the investment firm for 46 years.

“I came here like everybody else to share the anniversary and to share the feelings,” Schlanger said.

Many of those gathered said they felt the need to spend part of the day surrounded by others.

“It just seemed a good way to end the year instead of staying home and getting sucked in by the TV,” said Jessica Bernie, a Fresh Meadows high school teacher who attended with her mother, Germana.

Brenda Malloy, an educator who accompanied the Bernies, agreed.

“I came because I wanted to be around other New Yorkers and relive the moment together,” she said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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