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Colleen Curnuck fought back the tears, blinking her green
eyes toward the spot where an overcast sky met a sandy horizon.
Her look penetrated, through the hundreds gathered around her, through the
glass-like Twin Towers uncovered before her at Point Lookout.
"I was just thinking of the horror of that day," the teacher from Levittown
said as the 15-foot ice sculpture was unveiled and applause, hesitant at
first, erupted into a thunderous clap.
"I still think about it and I feel bad for my grandchildren," Curnuck said,
nodding toward 2-month-old Keegan cooing as he laid in his stroller, and
Kolton, 2, taking notes in his "Blue's Clues" notebook with a red crayon.
"Hopefully, he'll never have to write about a September 11th in his lifetime."
Curnuck, whose husband, Roy, helped create the 4,000-pound sculpture for
yesterday's ceremony, was among thousands who gathered across Long Island
yesterday to commemorate the third anniversary of the attacks. Nursing
collective wounds that, perhaps, may never fully heal, many said they make it
by hoping their children will never experience anything close to the horrors of
"As our nation has summoned the resolve to embark upon the road to
recovery, perhaps most important is that our children have evidence that our
country has a genuine future filled with great hope and promise," Hempstead
Town Supervisor Kate Murray said.
In her remarks before the sculpture's unveiling, Murray also praised the
heroism of U.S. soldiers fighting terrorism and those who perished in rescue
efforts in the towers. Her neighbor, Levittown fire chief Ron Kerwin, was among
them. "We have to provide comfort for their families any way we can," she
Fred McFarland, who sang the national anthem, somberly retreated from the
water's edge after tossing a white carnation into the Atlantic along with
hundreds of others thrown by people there. McFarland, who became a volunteer
firefighter with Engine Co. No. 3 in Levittown two years ago, said he was
motivated by the attacks. "It's the best way I know of giving something back,"
Hundreds attending the sunrise ceremony planted small American flags with
message tags bearing personal thoughts at the foot of the ice sculpture.
Images of his brother-in-law flooded his mind as he stuck his flag into the
sand, said John Ficara, a lawyer from Bellmore. "He would always come to our
house," he said of Robert Sliwak, a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, "and the
first thing he would do is head to the fridge. You think of the good times."
A white sweatshirt Ficara wore bore the name of Sliwak, who had just turned
40, and not long before moved into a home in Wantagh with his wife, Susan,
and three young children. "They are getting through it," he said.
Ray and Yvonne LaBrec stood in silent contemplation inside St. Agnes
Cathedral in Rockville Centre as hundreds gathered for a Mass of remembrance,
where Bishop William Murphy delivered the homily. "Coming to this brings you
back," Yvonne LaBrec said, who recalled she was driving from her Greenlawn home
to work in the senior center run by the Town of Huntington the morning of the
She just caught the tone of the radio broadcast, she said, but "the tone
just got me. As I arrived in the office and saw the images on the television, I
asked why on earth were they showing a horror movie to the seniors," LaBrec
remembered. "The entire day and weeks after, I just didn't know what to say or
do." But life goes on, she said. "Whatever will happen will happen."
Positive thinking keeps him going, said Bernie O'Brien of Rockville Centre,
the lector at Mass at St. Agnes. His son, Timmy, and his son-in-law, Steve
Tighe, perished in the attacks, he said, but "we are blessed. We are blessed to
have had each of them for 40 years. It's very easy to curl up in a corner and
feel sorry for yourself, but life is going to go on."
Years before she boarded United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, Linda
Gronlund had come to the Barcelona Neck Nature Preserve in Sag Harbor often to
walk and think.
Yesterday, three years after she became a national hero by helping to seize
the cockpit of one of the three planes hijacked by terrorists, the 350-acre
preserve was dedicated in Gronlund's name.
"This is a small town and everyone knew her," said Assemb. Fred Thiele
(R-Sag Harbor), who attended Pierson High School and Southampton College with
Gronlund and was her close friend. "It seemed right that we remember her here
in some way."
Thiele and state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who sponsored the
legislation that changed the state preserve's name to the Linda Gronlund
Memorial Nature Preserve, both spoke to a group of about 200 yesterday,
including Gronlund's mother, Doris Gronlund of Sag Harbor.
Gronlund, a 46-year-old attorney for BMW who lived in upstate Greenwood
Lake, was traveling to California for a vacation with her boyfriend when their
plane was hijacked.
Those who knew Gronlund, a lively independent spirit, have no doubt she
helped stop the terrorists from destroying a third national monument that day.
"The fact that they attempted to take over the cockpit and she was on the
plane wouldn't have come to a surprise to anyone who knew her," Thiele said.
Hardly a day goes by when we don't see a car or a T-shirt commemorating the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with the words: "We will never forget." But on the
three-year anniversary of that day, the Rev. Kevin Smith of St. Francis De
Sales Church in Rockville Center asked whether there are times when we do
"Many people are at company picnics, or ballgames, or at the beach today,"
Smith told a group of about 200 people gathered at SUNY Farmingdale for a
ceremony commemorating everyone Long Island lost three years ago. "Will they
stop today? Will they remember?"
The people there remembered, and one by one they took the podium to share
their recollections of sadness and strength.
Bob De Silva, president of the Long Island Association of Retired New York
Firefighters, remembered seeing his Long Island brothers go to New York City to
man firehouses in the days after the tragedy. Thomas DiMaria, who works at
South Nassau Communities Hospital counseling the loved ones of the 9/11
victims, remembered a 9-year-old boy who made his first homerun not long ago
and looked into the stands only to remember that his father wasn't there. And
Frank Boulton, principal owner of the Long Island Ducks, remembered his
brother-in-law, who helped a woman escape from the 1993 terrorist attack on the
World Trade Center but could not manage to escape himself in 2001.
"Today, we're back to honking our horns, and taking our rightful places at
the front of the line," Smith said. "But my prayer today is that we celebrate
life ... that we celebrate the love in our hearts by our actions."
The college plans to break ground on a memorial to Long Island Sept. 11
victims by this time next year.
It was getting dark on Friday night, and employees of Zorock International
Corp., a Ronkonkoma-based manufacturer of colored stones, were working as fast
as they could to complete a Sept. 11 monument. The 28-foot image of the Twin
Towers and the Maltese Cross emblem of the Mastic Fire Department, which
participated in the rescue efforts, was to be finished in time for a morning
memorial yesterday marking the third anniversary of the attacks.
"It was late. We still had a long way to complete it," said Bob Sacani,
director of sales and distribution at Zorock.
A Mastic firefighter, Rudy Sunderman Jr., stopped by and saw the situation
the workers were in.
"They put an alert out on the radio for work detail. Within minutes, we had
over 30 firemen there," Sacani said.
"The company had five guys down there and they were doing everything they
could ... Obviously, the weather this week didn't cooperate that much," Patrick
Greene, the chief of the Mastic Fire Department, said yesterday. "They kind of
directed us on what to do. It's actually quite beautiful."
With the added manpower, the monument, on the corner of Poospatuck Lane and
Mastic Road, was completed around 10 p.m., Sacani said.
Twelve hours later, at 10 a.m. yesterday, about 200 firefighters and
residents gathered around the memorial for a moment of silence and prayer,
"It almost broke us down in tears," Sacani said of the firefighters'
11th-hour assistance. "We were exhausted from working all week ... They were
the heroes, really."