St. Michael’s Cemetery advances FDNY monument plan

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For the Santora family, whose firefighter son died in the Twin Towers Sept. 11, St. Michael’s Cemetery in East Elmhurst has been a place to seek solace.

The cemetery, at 72-02 Astoria Blvd. in East Elmhurst, has hosted numerous remembrances of the heroes of that tragic day. Since 2004 memorials listing the names of the dead from the FDNY, the NYPD and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey have been added to St. Michael’s and an America’s 9/11 Memorial Quilt, now hung in the New York City Fire Museum, was once displayed there.

The memorials have meant a lot to Al and Maureen Santora, who were instrumental in bringing them to fruition.

“Queens is probably one of the only [city boroughs] that doesn’t have some sort of a monument to 9/11,” said Al Santora, a Long Island City retired firefighter, who lost his firefighter son Christopher Santora during the 9/11 attacks.

The Santoras had bought land at the cemetery for themselves, but when their son died at the age of 23 about a year later, they approached St. Michael’s spokesman Ed Horn and requested a way to remember all 76 firefighters from Queens lost on Sept. 11, 2001. Christopher Santora is buried at St. Michael’s.

“That’s how the first monument here was created,” Horn said.

Eventually members of the NYPD and the Port Authority came to St. Michael’s requesting representation for those in their ranks who died, which St. Michael’s Cemetery did. The list includes 23 police officers and 37 Port Authority workers from Queens.

This year the cemetery will be creating a memorial to all firefighters who died on 9/11. Horn said that on June 23 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the cemetery and the Santoras will hold a fund-raiser at Central Lounge, at 20-30 Steinway St. in Astoria, to build the $50,000 monument. The Santoras will try to raise additional funds if they do not meet their goal.

“I think it’s something that needs to be done,” Al Santora said of building the memorial. “I think people should have a place for no other reason.”

The unveiling for the new memorial is planned for the cemetery’s annual 9/11 service, which will be held on Sept. 24 this year, Horn said. The event is not held Sept. 11 because many family members visit Ground Zero on that date.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 10:40 am, October 12, 2011
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