It’s impossible not to take a moment to pause and reflect before entering Seaford High School’s main entrance, just off Seamans Neck Road.
On the left of the entrance lies five memorial plaques of alumni who perished during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two large, red pieces of steel sit on black Mexican river stones.
When the sun sets, lights illuminate the plaques, with a backdrop of two large, rectangular gray stones appearing as the Twin Towers.
In between the stones is a circular plate, featuring a boat shaped like a swan, adorning the initials of the five victims as if they’re rowing the boat.
“It’s something positive,” Tom Condon, founder of the Seaford High School 9/11 Memorial Committee, said as the sun glared off the eye-catching monuments.
The committee has been determining recipients of its annual Patriot Award since 2002, given to five seniors who show a true passion for helping the community. GPA doesn’t matter, nor does a student’s career aspirations.
“The committee grants $10,000 in scholarships to five students every spring around graduation,” Principal Scott Bersin said in front of the memorial. “There will be about 400 students here [at the memorial service]. The committee sponsors about half the cost of our senior class trip to the 9/11 Museum in New York City.”
All the committee wants to know is how does a student exemplify the “characteristics of service, character and commitment that were embodied by our five graduates who perished on September 11, 2001.”
The five who died in 9/11 from Seaford were Thomas Haskell, the youngest-ever New York City Fire Department battalion chief; Timothy Hashkell, Thomas’ brother who was also a firefighter—actually getting off-duty that day and could’ve gone home but chose not to; John William Perry, an NYPD officer who was handing his retirement papers in the morning of 9/11 and ran onto the scene; Robert Francis Sliwak, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee with a wife and three children; and Michael Wittenstein, also at Cantor Fitzgerald, who was engaged at the time.
“This whole mission is broader than a memorial service,” Condon, also a former principal, athletic director and guidance counselor at Seaford, said. “It gives students a sense of history.”
This isn’t the only program in the area that makes sure the lives and legacies of those who died on that day will always be remembered. The Levittown-Island Trees Emergency Relief Fund was established to raise money within the community to “help families of victims of extreme emergencies by assisting them with paying essential bills.” To do this, donation boxes were set up across Levittown and Island Trees, and people donated plenty to the committee.
The relief fund is still in tact 18 years after the tragedy, helping victims’ families pay medical bills and other types of payments that popped up over the years.
As for the Seaford memorial, there will be a service that kicks off at exactly 6:50 p.m., as per the school’s tradition. It is considered to be one of the largest in the nation, with hundreds of people coming out to memorialize those who are no longer with us. Everyone from the Vikings’ marching band to the Nassau County Color Guard, a helicopter fly-over and more are involved in this spectacular memorial.
“It’s respect and acknowledgment for everyone in the community,” Condon said. “We always wanted to do something, but we wanted it to be positive.”
For more information on the 9/11 Memorial Committee, visit www.seaford911.org.
When one leaves Seaford High School, one can’t help but stare at the gorgeous stone, decorated in the American flag with the words, “Always Remember.”
Jeffrey James Shaw, 42, Levittown, N.Y., Forest Electric Corp.
Richard N. Poulos, 55, Levittown, N.Y., Cantor Fitzgerald.
Ronald T. Kerwin, 42, Levittown, N.Y., New York City Fire Department.
Paul William Jurgens, 47, Levittown, N.Y., Port Authority Police Department.
Thomas Theodore Haskell, 37, Seaford, N.Y., New York City Fire Department.
Timothy Shawn Haskell, 34, Seaford, N.Y., New York City Fire Department.
Matthew L. Ryan, 54, Seaford, N.Y., New York City Fire Department.
Wayne John Saloman, 43, Seaford, N.Y., Cantor Fitzgerald.
Dennis M. Carey, Sr., 51, Wantagh, N.Y., New York City Fire Department.
Lee S. Fehling, 28, Wantagh, N.Y., New York City Fire Department.
Michael Wittenstein, 34, Seaford, N.Y., Cantor Fitzgerald.
Joseph D. Mistrulli, 47, Wantagh, N.Y., Windows on the World contractor.
John William Perry, 38, Seaford, N.Y., New York City Police Department.
Robert F. Sliwak, 42, Wantagh, N.Y., Cantor Fitzgerald.
Paul Talty, 40, Wantagh, N.Y., New York City Police Department.