A 19-foot beam from the World Trade Center that weighs five tons has been set in its final resting place inside Manhasset Valley Park, which is in view of the trestle bridge where some may have taken their last train ride into Manhattan and never returned 20 years ago.
“Twenty years have gone by and yet so many of the memories of Sept. 11 are right at our finger tips,” Town of North Hempstead’s Town Clerk Wayne Wink said. “It is a strange sensation; there’s been an entire generation since this has happened but for so many of us, it is right there. It feels like it was just yesterday.”
On Saturday, Sept. 11, the Town of North Hempstead will be hosting a ceremony and will be unveiling the newly placed monument to observe the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that took the lives of almost 3,000 people.
“It was acquired in 2013,” explained the Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth. “The town received two steel beams from the World Trade Center and it was donated by the New York Port Authority in New Jersey.”
The other beam, which is two feet long and is 62 pounds, currently sits inside the Town of North Hempstead Town Hall. Next to the beam, enclosed in a glass case, is a plaque that reads the names of 56 Town of North Hempstead residents who died on Sept. 11.
It was certainly a day that those who live and work in town will remember, with Manhasset sitting just about 20 miles away from the World Trade Center. Many recall the smoke wafting through the town, as well as the shock and sadness.
Rev. Jimmy Only, of the Congregational Church of Manhasset, remembers the local clergy association holding an Interfaith Prayer Service in the sanctuary of the Congregational Church of Manhasset on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, with a community service taking place the following Saturday at Mary Jane Davies Green.
To this day, a service is held by the Congregational Church of Manhasset every year at the park to remember the day that took the lives of thousands.
“There was someone from our church who lost a loved one and they had the idea of doing a service down at Mary Jane Davies Park with the gazebo,” Only recalled, adding that he worked with local clergy to put together the “nuts and bolts” of the service. “That first year, there was thousands upon thousands of people. Streets were blocked off and emotional is an understatement. Everyone was feeling such profound grief and disbelief and fear of what could happen next. It was good for all of us with our individual feelings to be able to come together with friends and neighbors who were feeling exactly the same way as we were.”
To Only, the most important part of the service is inviting those who lost a loved one to come up to the microphone and speak the name of the person they lost.
“Every year, people come forward and do that,” Only said. “Of course, the first year, it took a very, very long time. And at that point, people were missing. We hadn’t 100 percent given up hope that they were in a hospital somewhere.”
But many in town do not remember that day, as some were either too young to recall or had not even been born yet. Bosworth said she recalled seeing firefighters who served as honor guards during the dignified transport of the 19-foot beam in August who had not even been born when the attacks happened.
Monuments, Only said, are a way of reminding people that something profoundly tragic happened.
“We want to remember and honor those who died,” Only said. “And I think that’s important, not just now, but I think it’s important for future generations who will be more disconnected with what happened that day and I think the monument will serve as a reminder to them of the many good people, the business people, firefighters, police officers, who perished that day.”
The annual Sept. 11 memorial service held by the Town of North Hempstead, Wink said, is the most solemn ceremony organized by the Town Clerk’s office, which also conducts vow renewals on Valentine’s Day or the Women’s Roll of Honor event.
“We always organize this event,” Wink said. “This will be my eighth year in seeing it and it’s the one event every year that I go out of my way to make sure we do everything we can to make it solemn, sobering and respectful of the occasion.”
Only said that as someone from New York, he is often asked if he has ever visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan.
“My response has been that I haven’t,” Only said. “I think I would find it very troubling and it would bring back a lot of very sad feelings. But I am very glad it was there… because the kids who were born 20 years ago, for them it was just a video clip and something in a history book.”
With years passing and that fateful day in 2001 becoming more of a distant memory, some who are not from the area wonder, Only said, how long the service will continue to be held inside Mary Jane Davies Park every Sept. 11.
“My thoughts have always been, well, as long as people are coming to the service, then I think there’s a need,” Only said. “And I think when people stop coming to the service, then we’ll know it’s time to stop. Right now there’s still a need.”