Young and old, they came to Jean Cochran Park in Peconic from every hamlet in Southold on Sunday morning, bearing the same message: “We remember.” There, they dedicated a sculpture that sits on an I-beam from the World Trade Center in memory of those who died in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Any divisiveness over the move of the sculpture, called Morning Call, from Greenport Harbor, where it had stood for years, to the Peconic park was obscured in the moving ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
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“I’m proud to be American,” said D. Dellaquila of Mattituck, who was at the ceremony with her in-laws, Frank and Marie Dellaquila, who just moved to the North Fork.
“It should be important for everybody to be here,” said Dotty Faith of Southold.
“It’s something we can never forget,” added her husband, George Faith. “It’s this generation’s Pearl Harbor.”
It was important for Joanne and Mark Solo of Southold to be at the memorial service since their daughter Lauren has just been commissioned as a Navy ensign, the proud parents said.
“It’s great hometown pride,” Mr. Solo said.
Several hundred residents, police and firefighters joined in a memorial walk from the Peconic recreation center to the park, uniting with others who had already gathered there prior to the early morning memorial service. Many parents and grandparents were accompanied by children, even babies, too young to have known the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001. But it was important to share the memories of that day, those in attendance agreed.
“Today is about healing and reflection,” said Tracey Orlando, whose father, Jim Miller, commissioned the osprey sculpture, which was originally meant as a gift to Greenport.
Sculptor Roberto Julio Bessin shed tears as he placed an American flag at the base of the I-beam that holds his sculpture. He called the service “eloquent” and said he was proud to have “created something that could celebrate” the sacrifices of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11 and the many who responded in the wake of the attacks for rescue and recovery efforts.
He said he remembers reading the obituaries of the thousands who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, and being so impressed with the contributions they made to their communities.
“It’s incalculable, the loss that we suffered,” Mr. Bessin said.
Ms. Orlando recalled the months after the attack, when her husband, Vincent, today a member of the Southold Town Board, worked in the recovery effort. She recalled a phone call from him early in the efforts describing the “devastation, sounds, feel and smells” at the site. He told her during that phone call that “to see so much devastation, sadness and evil, you have to believe there’s an equal amount of joy, love and God,” she said.
Her voice breaking, Ms. Orlando told the throng, “We will overcome. We should stand proud as a country and heal. We are a country that did not let hate consume us.”
Southold Supervisor Scott Russell called it “an absolutely stunning moment” when America learned it was being attacked and wondered, “Have we healed as a nation? I’m not sure.”
But the sculpture will stand as a “daily reminder” of the sacrifices made by so many. The best way to honor the fallen is to honor those still serving, Mr. Russell said.
More than a few shed tears as bagpipers from the Peconic War Pipes played “Amazing Grace.” And still more tears were shed as people moved forward to touch the I-beam and plant flags around its base in memory of those who perished on that sunny Tuesday 10 years ago.
Ringing bells marked the times when the south tower of the World Trade Center fell at 9:58 a.m. and again when the north tower fell at 10:28 a.m.
The next step to making the site a true memorial is for the town to landscape the area around the sculpture and erect benches where people can come and find solace in contemplation, said the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals chairwoman, Leslie Weisman.