By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
A young electrician who was killed during his second day on the job at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 was honored Saturday when the street in front of his family’s Woodside apartment was renamed in his honor.
Tommy Ashton, 21, was remembered on 47th Avenue in the Big Six Towers apartment complex by family and friends as an accomplished athlete and youth mentor at St. Sebastian’s Church and Archbishop Molloy High School, his alma maters.
“Tommy truly was a gift to us,” said his older sister, Colleen Ashton, recalling her brother’s honesty, sense of humor and devotion to family.
“He truly inspired me to be a better person,” she said.
Tommy Ashton was an altar boy at St. Sebastian’s, where he played basketball and baseball. He became a competitive swimmer, serving as captain of the Flushing Flyers and Molloy swim teams.
He was a peer group leader at Molloy and a political science major at St. Francis College in Brooklyn before becoming an electrician in July 2001 and enrolling in night classes to finish his degree.
Ashton agreed to coach the swim team at St. Sebastian’s just days before he was killed. A memorial scholarship has been established in his name at Molloy High School.
Ashton’s parents, John and Kathy, unveiled the new street sign that reads “Thomas J. Ashton Way” just outside the apartment building where they still live. They were surrounded by family and supporters including members of their son’s electricians’ union, IBEW Local 3.
City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Woodside) said the street sign was “the very least the city could do” to memorialize those lost on Sept. 11.
“The courage you have shown has just been extraordinary,” Gioia told the Ashton family.
“This memorial will celebrate his life,” said Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley. “Not his duration, but his donation to the community.”
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) paid tribute to the close-knit, patriotic community of Woodside, which he said had “produced many Tommy Ashtons in its day.”
Crowley said his district had lost more than 100 people in the attacks on the World Trade Center and that the Ashtons had been leaders among victims’ families.
Rob McKenna, who coached Ashton in basketball at St. Sebastian’s, honored him by adopting a son and naming him after Ashton.
McKenna urged the crowd to “say hi to Tommy every time you pass this way. I know I will.”
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.