Even with the death of al-Qaeda head and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, the wounds of the terrorist attacks are still raw for many in Nassau County.
Victims’ families and other local residents flocked to the Nassau County Sept. 11 Memorial, located in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow, late Monday to remember those lost with a candlelight vigil. The event, organized by the county, drew a range of people – from those who lost a loved one to people who just wanted to show support.
The killing of bin Laden by United States forces Sunday brought the pain back of that fateful day for many in attendance. The vigil was meant to be a remembrance focused on those who died on 9/11. People walked around the memorial touching the engravings, often taking a moment for themselves due to overwhelming emotion.
Loretta Brethel Feret of East Meadow said she wanted to go down to the memorial to be “a little bit closer” to her brother, Daniel J. Brethel, who died in the attacks. Brethel was a FDNY Captain with Ladder 24 in Manhattan who was going off duty at the time of the attacks. He drove down to the World Trade Center site with the well-known Father Mychal Judge, Brethel Feret said.
“They went their separate ways and my brother working at a command and one of the other towers went down,” she added.
Kristina Hollywood, also of East Meadow, lost her cousin, firefighter Thomas Farino of Engine 26 in Manhattan.
“He went in and we never heard from him again,” Hollywood said.
The informal vigil was lead by County Executive Edward Mangano and Legislator Dennis Dunne, both of whom were the first to proceed to the wall of names to take time to reflect. Those who followed carried candles – a somber reminder of their solidarity with the victims.
Legislator Dunne led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of “God Bless America” as a military color guard stood by at attention.
Several of the victims’ families explained that they were glad bin Laden was killed, but, as they said, there would really never be any closure because their loved ones weren’t coming back.
“It just kind of brings everything back – it is a bittersweet day,” Brethel Feret said. “It gives you a little bit of closure, but it doesn’t bring my brother or all of these other people back.”
She said her first reaction to the news of bin Laden’s death was mixed and that she “knows realistically this is not the end,” but that it is a symbolic moment.
Levittown resident Laurie Rudnick came with her sister and nieces to honor their cousins, John and Joe Vigiano, who were a firefighter and a police officer, respectively. Rudnick said that she felt “justice and vindicated” when she heard that bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces.
“It doesn’t bring them back. There is justice, but no closure,” she said.
Disbelief came over Hollywood when she found out the news – she couldn’t believe that “it was the Osama bin Laden.”
“They are very grateful to the United States military for finally catching him and bringing some closure to this, but in a very reflective and kind of a quiet way,” said Hollywood about her family’s reaction to the news of bin Laden's death. “We are not really jubilantly excited – it is sort of a bittersweet ending. It was a major loss in our family and it has just been a rough 10 years without Tommy.”
Others who were at the vigil came because they wanted to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11.
Bellmore resident Liz DeBell was at the vigil to “pay tribute to everyone who has given their lives innocently and heroically,” with her friend, Amanda Duffy.
“Just a really proud moment to be part of New York and the United States,” DeBell said. “I was only 13 – it is just crazy. I watched all of the documentaries today and it is so sad to see all of these people who had to pick up their lives. They finally have a moment to celebrate because the man who did this to us is finally gone.”
Duffy, of Wantagh, stated that she was actually more concerned now after bin Laden’s death because of possible repercussions. She echoed a sentiment that was seemingly shared by several visitors at the memorial.
“It was a relief, but it is sad that we all have to be happy of someone else’s death,” Duffy added.
“I think justice was served,” said Pat McVie, of Westbury. “Bad people like that always get their day and he had to go in front of Allah. I hope his day came.”