By Kelsey Durham
On the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) made his way through northeast Queens to honor more than two dozen victims who lost their lives at the World Trade Center that morning.
The senator commemorated 9/11 last week with the 10th annual motorcade through his 11th Senate District, a tradition Avella has carried out each year since being elected to City Council. Like years past, Avella dedicated his day to visiting 25 sites around the borough that have been renamed or dedicated in honor of 9/11 victims, some civilians and some first-responders who gave their lives trying to help save others.
But this year, Avella added a new location that was recently designed by architect Daniel Naimoli, whose cousin Vincent Cangelo died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. A park in North Flushing, at 26th Avenue and 154th Street, marked the beginning of the motorcade as the senator joined victims’ family and members of the FDNY and NYPD to honor Cangelo’s life and memory.
From there, Avella continued to the remaining stops, tying a floral wreath to street signs named after men and women throughout northeast Queens who died on 9/11.
“We’ve tried to reach out to the victims’ families and make sure we honor everyone in the district,” Avella said.
His last stop was in Douglaston, where he met the family of Christopher Racaniello, at the corner of Marathon Parkway and Thornhill Avenue. At that corner hangs a street sign bearing the name of Racaniello, who was working at the Cantor Fitzgerald law firm on the 99th floor of the North Tower when the building was hit by the first hijacked plane.
Racaniello, a Douglaston native, was engaged to his high school sweetheart and had just sent out the invitations to their wedding Sept. 10, Avella said as he spoke about the man’s life.
“Christopher was just one of many people who went to work on 9/11 and became a martyr in the cause of freedom,” Avella said.
Another stop along the motorcade was to remember the life of Salman Hamdani, an EMT and NYPD cadet from Bayside who was on his way to work on the morning of Sept. 11 when he saw the disaster at the Twin Towers. Rather than running away, he made the choice to continue toward the burning buildings to see what he could do to help.
Hamdani’s remains were later found next to his medical bag outside the North Tower.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the Pakistan native was originally accused of being a part of the terror plot because of his ethnicity and faith, but his mother, Talat, worked tirelessly to clear his name and eventually succeeded, even winning the fight to have 204th Street at the corner of 35th Avenue renamed after her son.
Avella said he has continued his dedication to honor victims of the terrorist attacks more than a decade after they shook the world because of a dedication he feels to make sure future generations never forget. He said he is also working with Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council to try and get a plaque at every street sign renamed for a 9/11 victim that tells the story of who they were and what they sacrificed in the name of their country.
“For our generation, this was a defining moment in history,” Avella said. “It’s important we remember the people who gave their lives for us.”
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.