Eileen Edwards-O’Brien stood in the bright Tuesday afternoon sun as bagpipers played Amazing Grace in Heckscher Park in Huntington, where she came to pay homage her brother, Dennis Edwards, who was among the nearly 3,000 lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
She was one of countless Long Islanders who gathered at events from the East End to ground zero for any one of dozens of commemorative events marking the 11th anniversary of the worst terror attacks in U.S. history.
“My daughter joined the Air Force two years ago because of 9/11,” said Edwards-O’Brien. “Her Facebook page today said, ‘Because of Uncle Dennis.’”
He was one of nearly 500 residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties killed when 19 al Qaeda members hijacked four jetliners that they crashed into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a Pennsylvania field.
Events were widely reported to be more subdued than in years past. For the first time, there were no speeches from politicians at the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan, which opened last year. But that wasn’t true for events outside the city.
“I always look at this ceremony as an opportunity for our young people to understand what freedom is all about and what sacrifice is all about,” Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone told the crowd.
The speakers solemnly read the names of the 43 Huntington town residents killed in the attacks while members of the Veterans Advisory Board placed one rose for each name read in front of the podium.
On the other side of the island, hundreds of people attended a seaside ceremony at Point Lookout Beach, where residents wrote messages and names of victims on a panorama of the New York City skyline. Some included the names of service men and women serving overseas. Many stood in the sand.
Levittown Fire Commissioner John Rottkamp remembered Fire Chief Ronald Cohen, who also was an FDNY lieutenant. Rottkamp said Cohen was a great family man and a great fireman — and he considers that the highest kind of honor.
Jane Pollicino of Plainview, the wife of a Cantor Fitzgerald worker who died on 9/11, said this year’s anniversary feels “calmer” than previous years.
She went to the ceremony in Lower Manhattan and said last year was tougher because of the emotional turning point of the 10th anniversary.
Still, people who think she must be “over it” are wrong. The grief still lingers.
-With Associated Press.