McManus park 9/11 memorial still strong after 11 years

Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

Organizers and visitors to the annual 9/11 memorial ceremony at McManus Memorial Park in Astoria Heights last week were heartened that the 150-strong crowd was still present 11 years after the tragedy.

“We’re very pleased that the community comes out,” said Rosemarie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association.

The civic holds the ceremony at the park, at the northwest side of 81st street and the Grand Central Parkway service road, in conjunction with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. As visitors held candles, the speakers entreated the community to remember the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center that killed thousands and remain vigilant in the face of potential new threats.

“We are not just saying we won’t forget,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan). “We are showing it and proving it.”

The Sept. 12 vigil included speeches from government officials and law enforcement and religious leaders as well as relatives of the victims. Jackson Heights resident John Cartier, of the American Brotherhood Motorcycle Club, spoke on behalf of his brother, James Cartier, who died in the South Tower.

Kathleen Santora, whose brother Christopher Santora, of Engine 54/Ladder 4, who at 23 was the youngest firefighter to die in the wake of the attack, said this time of year is always difficult for the families and that it was hard to believe 11 years had gone by.

She spoke of her brother not only as a hero, but as a friend who she misses every day.

“We must not forget the victims are not just victims,” Kathleen Santora said. “They’re our family.”

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) drew a connection between the Sept. 11 attacks and the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, which happened on the 11th anniversary. He commended the military and law enforcement for their hard work in stopping terrorism.

“They are planning to attack us as we sit here in Queens,” Vallone said, “and the only thing that stands between them and us is the NYPD.”

Deputy Inspector Stephen Cirabisi, commander of the 114th Precinct, mentioned in his speech those who had died after getting sick cleaning up the pile at Ground Zero.

“There’s still so many people who are paying the price of 11 years ago,” Cirabisi said.

Others spoke of remembering the Sept. 11 attacks for future generations. State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) said with the birth of her new daughter, Eleni Evangeline Katsanos, in August, it was her responsibility to teach her daughter about what happened and how the country banded together in the wake of it.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am to see that this park is always filled,” Simotas said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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