By Lisa Finn Riverhead Patch
Bob Kelly, brother of Reeves Park resident Thomas Kelly, 38, a New York City firefighter and one of seven members of Engine 219, Ladder 105 who died on September 11 after the terrorist attacks, is pleased by the momentum.
“The town has been plugging away the last week and it is starting to shape up nicely,” Kelly said. “The guys involved are making this appoint of pride and are doing the right thing, and are doing a great job.”
Kelly added that a formal dedication should take place by 9/11.
“The community is excited to see the progress and the Sound Park Heights Civic Association is committed to partnering with the county and town to make this a special place,” he said. “The efforts of a few good friends and the support from the community and family are making this become a reality. It’s still hard to believe but it’s happening.”
The memories of 9/11 are still painfully close for Kelly. On Monday, he was slated to attend a funeral for the wife of a friend, Frank Palumbo, who died with his brother that day.
“Frank left Jean and 10 children behind — and now, after a long battle with cancer Jean has left this world. So, this one hurts a little bit more. When I drive by the memorial tomorrow, Frank and Jean will be in my thoughts,” Kelly wrote.
Kelly has said that the new park will also pay tribute to the first responders who have become ill after 9/11.
Eric Biegler, president of Sound Park Heights Civic Association, spoke at Riverhead’s town board meeting in March and announced that Suffolk County had closed on the property, allowing plans to move forward for the park.
“I look forward to working with you to create a wonderful park that Riverhead can be very proud of,” Biegler said.
The county acquistion of the 4.1 acre parcel, located at the corner of Sound Avenue and Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive/Park Road, has been a long-sought-after goal.
“There’s a true sense of peace,” Kelly said. “Knowing that after ten years, the right thing has been done.”
Kelly said with plans set to move forward, “we will now have a peaceful place for reflection, meditation, and prayer — a place to walk and be in your thoughts, to reach into your feelings.”
The park will bring a measure of solace for those left behind, Kelly said.
“I feel that my brother Tom and all my friends that were killed that horrible day, as well as the far-too-many folks who are becoming ill and passing after the rescue and recovery work, will have a fitting place,” he said. “Family, friends, the people of Suffolk can come to a beautiful place to pay respects, or to be in the moment with their memories.”
The vision for the park includes a garden, with memorial benches, butterflies, and stones to mark the event and lives lost.
In addition, Kelly has expressed interest in dedicating a piece of the parcel to local first responders who have been killed in the line of duty — including Heidi Behr, who lost her life in a tragic ambulance accident.
“The Behr family is on the top of my wish list — they deserve this, at least, and a whole lot more,” he said.
“To all those people who worked so hard to make this land become a reality, on behalf of my family and all those who have suffered from the events of 9/11, thanks for doing the right thing,” Kelly has said.