Margaret Tietz honors fallen of Holocaust, 9/11

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On a day when Jewish people around the world light a candle to remember the six million people killed in the Holocaust during World War II, Fire Department Lt. John Atwell visited a Jamaica nursing home Tuesday to light a candle for the people who were lost in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Tuesday marked Yom Hashoa, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the Margaret Tietz Center for Nursing Care at 164-11 Chapin Parkway in Jamaica held a dual memorial this year. It commemorated the Holocaust and the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center with the lighting of eight candles, the reciting of traditional prayers of mourning, and the singing of patriotic songs, including “God Bless America” and “Hatikva,” the Israeli national anthem.

The center was founded as a home for Holocaust survivors. At one time, 65 percent of the home’s residents were survivors, but that number has dropped to 40 percent, said Kenneth Brown, president and chief executive officer of the center. The memorial is becoming even more important as the numbers of survivors shrink, he said.

“We must never forget what has taken place and never forget what was lost,” Brown said.

Atwell, a member of Engine Co. 219 and Ladder Co. 105 in Brooklyn, said his experiences after the World Trade Center attacks gave him a greater understanding of the horror of the Holocaust. Atwell’s company lost seven firefighters, including his nephew, he said. He and his remaining comrades still go down to Ground Zero on a volunteer basis to recover their fallen brothers.

Atwell said he also has a new understanding of the oath Jews repeat every year on Holocaust Remembrance Day: “Never forget.”

“My job today, as well as in the future, is to share this tragic thing with others so they don’t forget what happened on Sept. 11, just like today is to ensure that your six million brethren are not forgotten,” he said.

Atwell joined Carey Ramirez, a hospice nurse who works at the Tietz center, in lighting the candle memorializing the victims of the attacks. Ramirez, who lived just a few blocks from the Twin Towers, rushed to help in the rescue efforts after the attacks only to get caught under the building in the Grand Concourse as the first tower collapsed.

“I thought I was dead,” he said, but he was able to make his way out of the rubble.

Seven other candles were lit to commemorate the Holocaust. One candle each stood for one million Jews killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust, while the seventh represented the non-Jewish people who lost their lives trying to help Jews escape the concentration camps, said Rabbi Esor Ben-Sorek.

“Civilized man has no words to describe the catastrophe,” he said. “We are dumbfounded. Even 67 years later we still cannot understand how the entire world could have gone mad.”

This year’s commemoration was the 18th annual ceremony at the center, which makes the event even more meaningful, said George Berlstein, chairman of the center’s board of directors. In Hebrew the word for 18, chaim, is the same as the word for life, he said.

“Out of death must somehow come life,” he said. “We have to somehow get over it, accept it, remember it, and then get on with life.”

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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