On September 11, 2016, members of the Wantagh Fire Department participated in several ceremonies commemorating the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America. It was a day to pause and remember the victims that perished on one of the nation’s darkest days, as well as those that have died since then or are suffering from injury and illness related to their exposure.
Starting with a sunrise service at the Town of Hempstead’s 9/11 memorial beside the ocean at Point Lookout park, members listened as family members of two of the victims spoke of their loved ones. During his closing remarks, Father Kevin Smith, Chaplain for the Nassau County Fire Service, spoke about how in the days and weeks after 9/11, people cheered and gave water, food and support for emergency responders as they entered and departed Ground Zero.
Members then assembled at Wantagh fire department Station #2 on Wantagh Avenue to remember former WFD member (Engine 4) FDNY (ladder 3) lieutenant Kevin Donnelly; WFD member (Ladder 1) and FDNY (Engine 235) firefighter Lee Fehling and former WFD member (Engine 3) and FDNY (Squad 18) firefighter Tim Haskell. Also remembered those who have died or are suffering from a 9/11 related illness, including ex-chief Bob Nicosia, WFD and NYPD and WFD firefighter and NCPD police officer Charles Cole, who both died of 9/11 related illnesses after working at ground zero.
That afternoon, members went to St. Barnabas R.C. Church in Bellmore for a Mass of Remembrance then headed to Wantagh fire department Station 1 to remember firefighter Fehling, wose firefighting gear has been preserved in a case at Station 1 and serves as a reminder of his life of service as a volunteer firefighter, a former police officer and firefighter in the FDNY.
The evening ended with members attending the candlelight service at the Seaford High School 9/11 Memorial on the front lawn at Seaford High School. Students and community members committed to service to make their community a better place as a way to honor the victims, especially the following Seaford High School Alumni: Tommy Haskell ’82 (FDNY); Timmy Haskell ’85 (FDNY); John Perry ’82 (NYPD); Robert Sliwak ’77 and Michael Wittenstein ‘85 (Cantor-Fitzgerald). The Seaford High School 9/11 Memorial Committee also added and dedicated two new additions to their memorial. Pieces of steel from the World Trade Center site have been installed adjacent to the plaza as well as a “survivor tree,” which was grafted and carefully grown from a lone Callery Pear tree that survived in the shadows of the towers after they fell. The tree stands as a reminder of resilience that, although we as a Nation may get knocked down, we will get back up, rebuild, and become stronger.
A common theme of the memorials w as that many of the students now entering high school were not even born yet. September 11 will be forever etched in the minds of those of old enough to remember. I’m sure we can all recall where we were when we first learned of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. We must all strive to continue to tell the stories of 9/11 and keep the memories of all of the victims alive and resolve to never forget their sacrifice.
—Kevin Regan, Wantagh FD Public Information Officer