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Shelter Island remembers 9/11

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Part of the gathering at the Shelter Island 9/11 Memorial on the Center Firehouse grounds this morning.
Part of the gathering at the Shelter Island 9/11 Memorial on the Center Firehouse grounds this morning.

Lights flashed vividly in the gray, muggy morning from a lone Fire Department vehicle parked at the Center Firehouse.

Down the block, at the corner of Thomas Street, 50 or so people, including Shelter Island School students, gathered on Tuesday to remember September 11, 2001.

School Superintendent Christine Finn, noting that classes were canceled Tuesday because of Rosh Hashanah, said she was pleased that coaches had brought their student athletes to the ceremony.

As almost every adult said — most with a sense of amazement — the students assembled had not been born when the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in the skies over Pennsylvania occurred.

Ms. Finn said the presence of the young people was a significant exercise, showing them a community “remembering and honoring and knowing that we all came together that day.”

A detail of Island firefighters in dress uniforms made a semi-circle in front of the 9/11 memorial on the firehouse grounds, an iron girder from Ground Zero. Its only adornment is a brass fire department insignia and “343,” the number of firefighters who died that day.

Psalm 23, known by most for the phrase, “the Lord is my shepherd” and a reference to the “valley of the shadow of death,” was read.

First Assistant Chief Earl Reiter then asked those gathered if anyone had thoughts to share. Councilman Jim Colligan thanked the first responders and noted that although 3,000 people died 17 years ago, “millions of Americans were affected deeply.”

Police Chief Jim Read spoke to the youngsters in the crowd, reiterating that this was the first Island 9/11 ceremony where there are no students who were alive when the attacks occurred. Generations are moving on, the chief said, and “it’s up to you to remember.”

Many people are still suffering physically from the World Trade Center’s devastation, including some Islanders, he added, “and we should remember them in our thoughts and prayers.”

Eddie Brennan told the gathering that he was in the first tower when the plane hit.

“When we were going down the stairs, firefighters were walking up,” Mr. Brennan said. And as people were “running uptown,” first responders were racing downtown to the site of the attack.

Although 3,000 people perished, Mr. Brennan said, “20,000 were saved,” and he thanked the Island’s first responders for all they do.