St. Michael’s unveils NYPD memorial

Flushing native Jane Wixted brushed away tears as she walked from a new memorial for her son, Glen Pettit, a police videographer killed on 9/11.
“It’s beautiful but sad,” she said of the black-granite monument, equipped with “memory medallions” for the 23 New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers. “But it doesn’t get any easier for a parent.”
In a touching tribute to Pettit, entitled “My Son, My Hero,” Wixted and her husband, Tom, wrote, “I miss you more than life and more than I can put on paper. Please smile often, wink your eyes a lot so people can see your beautiful blue eyes; some days that is all I see and that is what helps me through.”
Now - six years after September 11, 2001 - every visitor to St. Michael’s Cemetery in Flushing can now read his family’s remembrances and view a picture of Long Island resident Pettit through the high-tech “medallion.”
The cemetery unveiled the NYPD memorial, which stands between those dedicated to the slain 76 Queens Fire Department of New York (FDNY) members and 37 Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) officers, during a ceremony on Saturday, September 8. Each of the three monuments bears “medallions,” which can be accessed with a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and contain up to 600 words of text.
The first monument - for members of the FDNY - was dedicated in 2004 after retired Fire Department Deputy Chief Alexander Santora and his wife, Maureen — parents of the youngest firefighter killed on 9/11 - pushed for Queens FDNY to be remembered. In 2006, the memorial for PAPD cops was unveiled, and next year, all of the city’s first responders killed since 1995 will be honored during the annual memorial.
During this year’s ceremony - which drew Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Anthony Weiner, Senator John Sabini, Assemblymember Cathy Nolan, City Councilmembers John Liu, Eric Gioia, and Peter Vallone, Jr. and Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) President Pat Lynch - the Santoras both spoke about their son, 23-year-old Christopher, a member of Engine 54/Ladder 4 and a native of Long Island City.
“I get motivation from my son, who I know is around all the time,” Maureen Santora said.
Over the past six years, the family has created a scholarship fund and has been a driving force in the yearly commemoration at St. Michael’s.
“It is a solemn occasion but it should also be a joyous occasion,” Alexander Santora said. “They all showed us that they are here, these brave men and women who died doing what they were sworn to do and they did it without asking what church do you go to, what color is your skin, how much money do you have … They are all our angels,” he said.
The Santoras’ message seemed to hit home for fellow firefighters’ parents - Margaret Cawley, Carlo Casoria, and Terri Mullan - all of whom wore or carried photos of their lost loved ones.
Casoria of Whitestone remembered his 29-year-old son Thomas, a sports fanatic and former Holy Cross High School football player, by wearing photos both on his lapel and on a medallion hanging from his neck.
“He was about to get married,” Casoria said of Thomas, a member of Engine 22/Ladder 13 in Manhattan. “A month after 9/11 he would have been married.”
Bayside resident Mullan said that her son, 34-year-old Michael, a Flushing resident and member of Engine 3/Ladder 12 in Manhattan, was also a registered nurse, an army reservist, “and when he sat at the piano, he became Jerry Lee Lewis.”
Cawley of Jackson Heights said that her 42-year-old son Michael, of Ladder 136 in Elmhurst, loved being a firefighter.
“If they had fire department boxers, he would have them,” she said.
On September 11, 2001, Michael Cawley rode into Manhattan with Rescue Team 4 after finishing a shift with Engine 292.
“He was a wonderful son. He used to call me every day,” Margaret Cawley said. “His father knew that day that things were bad because he would have called his dad … He used to call and wake me up at one o’clock in the morning, and I would say, ‘Michael, I have to go to work in the morning,’ and he would say, ‘Just put dad on.’”
After 9/11, both Mullen and Cawley joined a support group on Freeport, Long Island, which meets weekly. For the sixth anniversary, members cooked their “boys’” favorite food and reminisced with their favorite anecdotes.
“We still meet weekly and help each other through the best and worst of times,” Mullan said.
Their meetings have become especially important because the memories of those who did not lose loved ones have begun to fade over the years, the mothers said.

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