By Carl MacGowan Newsday
Organizers have added dozens more names to a wall at a Nesconset park honoring hundreds of workers who died from illnesses contracted at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks.
The newly engraved names are to be formally dedicated Saturday at 9/11 Responders Remembered Park. At the ceremony, organizers plan to bury a time capsule containing photographs and other memorabilia donated by relatives of the lost.
The addition of up to 40 names brings to about 160 the number of first responders honored since the park opened on September 10, 2011. Organizers hope to eventually recognize all responders who have died — estimated at 1,300, and growing.
“We built this park for this reason,” said John Feal, of Nesconset, a Ground Zero demolition worker who helped found the park. “To me, the park isn’t complete until we add these names and can rightfully say that we honor these people.”
Residents and lawmakers created the park to remember firefighters, police officers, emergency services personnel and construction workers who died of illnesses such as heart disease and cancer that they blamed on their work at Ground Zero after the 2001 terror attacks.
Feal said adding names to the memorial is a slow process. It takes about two months to obtain permission from victims’ families and verify that victims had diseases related to the post-9/11 cleanup.
Organizers have spent months collecting items for the time capsule — an 18-inch-long PVC tube that will hold pieces such as flags and letters written by children to their deceased parents, said Glen Klein, of Centereach, who is assembling it. It is to be opened in 25 years.
Judy Simmons, of Nesconset, donated a written history of her firefighter husband Martin’s 9/11 experiences and flash drives of family photos. Martin Simmons was 41 when he died in July 2008 from respiratory failure. She said her husband’s memory is kept alive by their sons — Joe, 18, Kevin 15, and Ryan, 12, in whom she sees aspects of Martin’s personality — and by the memorial and its time capsule.
“It’s a part of history, and it’s already in the kids’ histories at school,” she said. “To have somebody read about my husband, who was one of the responders there, means a lot to me.”
Klein, a retired New York City police officer who said he suffers respiratory problems stemming from his cleanup work, said making the time capsule has been “therapeutic.”
“I have friends who are on that wall, and I’m sure there are going to be so many more in the future,” Klein said. “It feels like a part of me that is going in the park. Years from now, when people open it up, people will see . . . what was sacred to us.”
Ceremonies will take place Saturday at 9:00am at 9/11 Responders Remembered Memorial Park, at Smithtown Boulevard and Gibbs Pond Road in Nesconset.