It was a solemn day in Sea Cliff on Sunday as residents gathered to remember and mourn the tragic massacre that occurred on September 11, 2001. Residents, government officials, firefighters and religious leaders gathered at outside the Children’s Library to honor the memory of Americans who lost their lives in the senseless terrorist attack 21 years ago.
The memorial began with a loud siren from the local Sea Cliff Fire Department and Fire Unit. Phil Como, commanding officer of James F. Brengel American Legion Post 456 in Sea Cliff, led the memorial with a reminder to consider the individual lives lost, the pain of those left behind and the shock Americans have suffered nationwide. following the senseless attacks that day.
“The personal tragedy, the lives that didn’t live on, the children that weren’t born, the accomplishments that didn’t go down,” Como said, “(it was) a sad day, and we take note of it, because, if we didn’t, it would be to our detriment.
Como was attended by Talia Smilowitz, solo cantor at Congregation L’Dor L’Dor in Oyster Bay and resident of Sea Cliff. Smilowitz performed the opening blessing and then sang a moving rendition of “God Bless America.”
Mayor Elena Villafane then gave an emotional speech to the gathered crowd as a light drizzle fell, which led to the weather reflecting the darkness of the day. She reminded the people of Sea Cliff that this was not just about the loss of lives, or symbols, but about what felt like the very soul of America.
“There was before, and now there is after, and after is forever,” Villafane said. “We will never regain that sense of invincibility, and innocence if you will, that was at the heart of being American. We realized that we were vulnerable as a people and as a country.
Como then drew residents’ attention to the clock that stood behind them, directly across from the children’s library. Como told how the clock was dedicated to the innocent people who lost their lives in planes hijacked by terrorists and in the towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The memorial ended with a few words from Rabbi Irwin Huberman of Congregation Tifereth Israel at Glen Cove. Huberman, who had become a US citizen a few months earlier, urged everyone to remember and take heart in growing and rebuilding the nation after the attack.
“Because of what happened that day, we doubled down on democracy, freedom, love for each other,” Huberman said. “We chose life.