Middle Village honors September 11th anniversary

Christopher Barca, Queens Chronicle

The “Never Forget” motto still rings true in Middle Village even after all these years.

The 14th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks that left 2,753 [sic – 2,749] people dead in Lower Manhattan — and a total of 2,977 [sic – 2,973] people dead, including the attack on the Pentagon in Virginia and the crash of United 93 in Pennsylvania — came upon the city again last Friday, and hundreds of area residents descended on Juniper Valley Park, as they always do, for the annual remembrance ceremony.

The Juniper Valley Park 9/11 ceremony Photo Queens Chronicle

The Juniper Valley Park 9/11 ceremony Photo Queens Chronicle

“We need to be reminded,” said Woodhaven grandmother Phyllis Lovasz, who attended the ceremony with her daughter, Geraldine Donowski, and her 3-year-old grandson, Connor Poirier. “Sometimes people just forget, so you need something like this.”

As night fell around 7:30 p.m., the event began with the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, with event emcee Kathy Pellegrino following the patriotic proceedings with a powerful speech about the importance of always remembering that tragic day.

“We gather because we are a great country with freedoms we so often take for granted,” Pellegrino said. “We gather because we embrace the words spoken so often whenever September 11, 2001 is mentioned, never forget.

“Each year that we meet here,” she continued, “serves as means to ensure awareness of the events that changed our world that day and offers us an opportunity to answer the questions of those too young to remember.”

The crux of Pellegrino’s speech was making sure that those who were either too young or not even born yet on that day go beyond what they’ll learn in a history class and develop a true understanding of the terrorist attacks that rocked the nation.

“It’s a chance to instill in them a sense of patriotism. A chance for us to share with our young ones what we felt, what we did and where we were on that fateful day,” she said. “We gather to ensure that September 11, 2001 will be more than just the next chapter in a child’s American history book. We will never forget.”

Next came the reading of the names by a handful of volunteers of the 115 area residents who perished in the attacks, set to a recording of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” played on the piano.

The ceremony continued with a prayer by the Rev. Michael A. Carrano, of Our Lady of Hope in Middle Village, after which the crowd was directed to turn around and take in the Tribute in Light, with the two beams symbolizing the fallen Twin Towers shining between the passing clouds high into the night sky, with Josh Groban’s “You Lift Me Up” playing over the sound system in the background.

After a joyous rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA (Proud to Be an American),” the crowd filed out of the park.

According to Lovasz and Donowski, they will continue to attend the ceremony every year, and in the near future, Connor, who came dressed as a firefighter, helmet and all, will truly understand the purpose of coming together as a neighborhood every September.

“We’re at the stage where we just tell him it was a bad day and people tried to hurt us,” Donowski said. “And we just say a special prayer for everyone.”

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