By Kiawana Rich Staten Island Advance
Eleven-year-old Joseph Manfredi wasn’t yet born when the terrorists took their fearsome but ultimately futile shots at New York City and America.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday evening at Staten Island’s “Postcards” 9/11 memorial, he spoke to the bravery of his uncle, Firefighter Joseph Maffeo, on that fateful day, as well as that of so many others whose lives were lost.
“The legacy of all those great heroes has lived on,” he said, before dissolving into tears.
But the Manfredi family didn’t miss a beat: Sister Amanda Manfredi, 15, chimed in with, “So, Uncle Joey, although my brother was not alive when your life ended, we will love you forever and continue to breathe your legacy into the lives of others.”
The poignant ceremony of remembrance at the St. George site drew an audience of hundreds, among them members of the NYPD, the FDNY and EMS, as well as numerous public officials.
For two of them, Michael Bloomberg and James Molinaro, it was the last such ceremony in their capacities as mayor and borough president, respectively.
Molinaro noted that 274 people left Staten Island on the morning of September 11, 2001, with dreams of getting married, having children and advancing their careers, “not knowing the next morning they would be deceased and gone.”
Then deputy borough president, Molinaro proceeded to the ferry terminal to await the arrival of the injured.
But “no one came over — no one.”
Then and there, he said, he swore to himself that, if elected borough president, he would build on that very spot a memorial to the victims.
He thanked Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the others who helped him realize that dream.
Bloomberg, who has been at every Postcards 9/11 event since the beginning, said the attack was a “wake-up call that freedom is not free.”
He referenced the heroism of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis, 24, of New Dorp, who was cut down only last month by insurgents in Afghanistan.
”The courage and character that Sgt. Ollis displayed on the battlefield is the same courage and character that saved thousands of lives on 9/11,” noted the mayor.
Ms. Quinn thanked Molinaro for the memorial and said it proved “a motivating factor to get the memorial done in Lower Manhattan.”
“You make sure we don’t just say we are never going to forget — that we actually never forget,” she lauded Molinaro.
As ever, the centerpiece of the ceremony was the reading of the victims’ names to the accompaniment of a tolling tribute bell.
Widow Catherine Buck addressed her husband, firefighter Greg, thusly: “My darling, my quiet man, my husband, in the words of Fat Boy Slim: ‘We’ve been a long, long way together, through the hard times and the good. I have to celebrate you, Baby, I have to praise you like I should.'”
Karen Ciaccio recalled the day that the remains of her brother, Lt. Jeffrey Walz, were identified: “It brought me right back to that day that changed my family’s life and so many other lives forever.”
On September 7, she said, she brought her brother’s remains home.
“He’s finally at rest,” Ms. Ciaccio said. “They say time heals all wounds, however, personally, I don’t agree. My wounds are still there. I have just learned to adjust to my life living without him.”
Wednesday evening’s invocation was pronounced by Monsignor James Dorney, co-vicar of Staten Island and pastor emeritus of St. Peter’s R.C. Church. The Rev. Dr. Victor Brown, pastor of Mount Sinai United Christian Church, Tompkinsville, furnished the benediction.
Lending their talents to the occasion were the Rev. Timothy Mercaldo, lead pastor of the Church at Gateway, and his daughter, Gabrielle Mercaldo, the Mighty String Demons orchestra and the Staten Island Pipers, among others.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, doves were released as a gesture of hope and remembrance.