The threat of Tropical Storm Hanna hastened the proceedings at St. Michael's Cemetery in East Elmhurst Saturday during its annual ceremony memorializing the emergency responders who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Rain began to pour as dignitaries concluded their speeches, but that did not dampen the spirits of the roughly 150 firefighters, police and family members who attended to see the dedication of a memorial paying tribute not just to the Queens residents who died wearing those badges, but to all those in the city.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who lost his cousin, John Moran, a battalion chief, in the attack, praised the cemetery for putting together the monument, which features digital copies of letters from family members that can be downloaded by computers or cell phones with wireless connections.
"Not a lot can be added to what has been said over the last seven years, and that's probably how it always will be," Crowley said. "But it doesn't make the hardships or difficulties of the event any easier for those of us who lived through it."
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), hailed the sacrifices made by first responders.
"9/11 was many things, but it also was the most remarkable rescue mission in the history of our country," she said, noting the initial estimates put the death toll at 25,000, but later were revised to a much lower 3,000.
She said she and Crowley were working on a bill to get health care for the first responders and workers who fell ill after working in the debris pile in the aftermath of the attack.
"They are the veterans of our war on terror," she said.
FDNY Chief Edward Bassett said those who perished were among the best in the borough.
"They were committed to community to service," he said. "They were soccer coaches, Little League coaches. These were people that made the neighborhoods of Queens a better place to be. As much as I remember that day, I first remember the people, your family and friends."
Retired Deputy Chief Al Santora, who lost his son, Christopher, in the attack, urged residents not to forget.
"It seems so long ago, and yet it seems like yesterday. That pain never goes away, but all we can do is remember them, honor them, remember the way they lived."
During his prayer, Rabbi Jonathan Pearl quoted a passage from Leviticus in Hebrew, translating it as, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your brother."
"Be there for people, whether you know them or not," he said. "They took God's words and made them more real than any of us hoped or imagined."
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@tim
©2008 Community News Group
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