From the
Oceanside/Island Park

Mourning on the Green
Hundreds at historical site remember terrorist victims

By JOSEPH KELLARD

September 19, 2002

      Suddenly at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, a sunny, clear Manhattan sky began to blacken as ominous smoke transformed the day into the darkest in U.S. history.  A year later, under a sky spiced by fiery-orange twilight, hundreds of people gathered on Schoolhouse Green in Oceanside to memorialize the innocents murdered by Islamic terrorists that day and to pay tribute to America.

      They and the community's many civic, religious and educational leaders did such with emotional speeches and spirited songs through the half-hour memorial.
      "The past year has been a year of grief, and while the grief will never go away completely, the time has come to turn our grief into action and to consider the memories that we have of our loved ones," said Mark Greenspan, rabbi of Oceanside Jewish Center and chaplain of Oceanside Fire Department (OFD), the first speaker called to addressed the solemn crowd. "But at the same time we must have the resolve to recognize that we live in a wonderful country -- a blessing. A country that others may attack, but a country that represents the best hope of the world."
      Last Wednesday's memorial began after many other ceremonies were held nationwide, most notably in New York City, Washington D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where collectively over 3,000 people were slaughtered last September. Oceanside's memorial opened with the OFD Color Guard filing alongside both sides of the podium while holding the Stars and Stripes. The crowd that gathered on the lush grass of the Green, Oceanside's future historical site on Foxhurst Rd. between Long Beach and Oceanside Roads, followed Superintendent Dr. Herb Brown's lead in pledging allegiance to that flag.
      Before asking for a moment of silence, Anthony Iovino, an attorney for the School House Green project, reminded fellow Oceansiders who they had come to remember and mourn.
      "One year ago today, our community lost loved ones to senseless violence," Iovino said in his speech that was a centerpiece of the memorial. "These fine innocent people were our parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends and neighbors. They will be missed, but they will never be forgotten. And neither will we forget the dedication of our many neighbors who bravely joined in the rescue and recovery efforts that started on the morning of September 11 and continued for days, weeks and months thereafter. As I speak, men and women from this community are serving in our security forces here at home and in our military forces overseas, delivering justice to the murderers and driven to bring about peace for a free nation."
      As the mourners hung their heads in silence, the only sounds came from the leaves of the Green's towering maple rustled by the brisk winds of a distant hurricane fading away at sea. Punctuating the memorial's solemn air, however, were patriotic and cheerful songs performed by Oceanside's youthful musicians and singers.
      Accompanied by the Oceanside High School Marching Band, OHS junior Chelsea Euliano sang "God Bless America," and accompanied by George Grossman, choral director at OHS, on piano, she sang "Let There Be Peace on Earth." Wearing T-shirts reading "United We Stand" above an image of Old Glory, Boardman Elementary School Choir sang "The Heart of America," an upbeat number that captured the benevolent, "optimistic" American spirit that School House Green President Betsy Transom mentioned in her speech.
      Transom spoke of the Memorial Waterfall and Garden recently created on the Green, which she said exists to remind people to stand by those who lost family and friends last September as fellow neighbors, Oceansiders and patriots. "We cannot possibly assume to share their loss," she said, "but we can most certainly share our lives. Everyday. With a smile, with a wave, with a simple hello."
      In time, the garden will be permanently lit and bare a plaque dedicated to both those who were murdered and those who attempted to rescue them on Sept. 11.
      Bob Transom, president of the Oceanside School Board, reflected on America through quotes from a book, "We Are not Afraid," by Homer Hickham.
      "You should make up your mind right now to never listen to those who would run our nation down because of their bitter perception of our past and who we are," he read. "...We live among a compassionate and optimistic people striving to do good. You are an American. There's nothing more you can say that should make you any prouder."
      Rev. Jim Burton of First Presbyterians Church and Rev. Janet Porcher of First United Methodist Church read from "A Litany of Thanksgiving and Hope."
      "With working hands and creative plans, we will rebuild our city, our economy, our community, ourselves....With our hearts and our hands, we shall overcome," they read.
      The memorial closed with a benediction offered by Rabbi Uri Goren of Temple Avodah along with members of the Oceanside Interfaith Council, which included the leaders of several Oceanside congregations.
      "It was a moving and fitting tribute," said Mary Mugno, a music teacher at School 2. "It was a touching moment of community and solidarity."
      Sitting in the second row during the memorial, Tracey Noon, an octogenarian life-long Oceansider, said, "I thought the ceremony was very nice. I love anything like it because it's the way I speak all of the time."

İHerald Community 2002