Turnpike Walk Honors Those Lost

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The walk proceeded along the service road of Hempstead Turnpike.

What began as a one-off event for St. Bernard’s Parish has since become a tradition, as, for the third consecutive year, St. Bernard’s Church held its Stations of the Cross on the Turnpike walk, dedicated to those who have lost their lives on Hempstead Turnpike. This year, however, the walk took on greater significance, with last year’s tragic hit-and-run accident, which claimed the life of Division Avenue High School graduate Taranjit Parmar, still hanging over the Levittown community.

Father Ralph Sommer, of St. Bernard’s Church, noted that the victims of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, FL, were also on the minds of the walkers.

“This year involved a few sad features we hadn’t hoped for,” Sommer said. “At one of the stations, we called out the names of the students and staff who died in the Florida shootings. And because of the sad death of Taranjit Pamar, we included her in the prayers for those who were killed on the turnpike. We were honored by the presence of her parents, family, classmates and friends and hoped that our prayers provided ongoing strength and care for them.”

The walk, which took place along the service road of Hempstead Turnpike, began at Veteran’s Park across from the Levittown Public Library and ended at the St. Bernard’s church building. Local Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts participated and picked up trash along the way, which Sommer explained was “a sign of having mercy on the earth and our environment.”

Father Ralph Sommer (left) has helped make the walk a tradition.

In its newsletter, St. Bernard’s Church gave thanks to the Levittown Fire Department and Wantagh Levittown Ambulance Corps for their participation in the event, as well as the Levittown Rays baseball team, who put up and took down the stations along the walk. Gratitude was also extended towards the Nassau County Police Department for providing an escort.

Sommer added that, though the walk originated as part of the “Year of Mercy” declared by Pope Francis three years ago, the support given by members of the Levittown community has allowed the event to take on its own significance.

“We wanted to do something to publicly pray for God’s mercy on Levittown and realized that Hempstead Turnpike had claimed so many lives over the years. So we used the traditional prayers of the Stations of the Cross along the turnpike to pray for safety and to remember those who died,” Sommer said. “We only intended to do that for the Year of Mercy. However, so many people came out for this and asked if we would do it again, that we made it an annual event.

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Joseph Catrone is the former editor of Farmingdale Observer, Hicksville News, Levittown Tribune and Massapequa Observer. He is also a contributing writer to Long Island Weekly and Anton Media Group's special sections.

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