For Greg Ammirati, like most Americans, 9/11 was lived history.
But on Sept. 11, 2023, while chatting with a college-aged employees, it struck him that 9/11 is something younger members of his community only hear or read about. It would be difficult for them to understand what it was like — but not impossible.
He resolved to help Mattituck’s youth fully grasp what the nation experienced 22 years ago, a day that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans, hundreds of first responders and others who have and continue to die from post 9/11 illnesses caused by inhaling debris. Mr. Ammirati set out to galvanize his community and raise funds to send Mattituck High School students on an educational field trip to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan. The memorial is known for the reflecting pools that mark where the Twin Towers stood, while the 110,000-square-foot museum, according to its website, showcases the history of the attacks “through artifacts, imagery, personal stories and interactive technology.”
Mr. Ammirati, like so many, lost a family member in the terrorist attack: his uncle, Glen Wall, was a senior vice president and partner at financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald L.P. The company’s headquarters were located between the 101st and 105th floors of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
While he developed the idea, Mr. Ammirati acknowledged that the 2024 trip would not be possible without the help of community members and organizations, who stepped up when he called on them. They included members of the Mattituck and Cutchogue fire departments, the Southold Town Police Benevolent Association, the Mattituck Lions Club, the 3256 Foundation, Kolb Mechanical Corporation and Orlowski True Value. All together, he said, the community has raised more than $6,000 so far.
“It kind of took on a life of its own,” he said of the fundraising effort. “We got it accomplished really quick and I’m excited about it.”
As a result, according to Mattituck-Cutchogue School District Superintendent Shawn Petretti, approximately 85 members of the junior class will visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum for free on April 10. Mr. Petretti said the trip would align most with 11th-graders, as they are “old enough to comprehend what it is they’re seeing,” and juniors routinely take a United States history and government course.
“There’s a lot to be learned from a trip like this,” Mr. Petretti said. “There’s not just the history of it and the ongoing battle that this country has with terrorism, but also the thousands of heroic stories of the people that stepped up, our first responders … And then how the city responded and rallied and came together to overcome and rebuild. I think it also speaks to the American resilience in people.”
While 9/11 is discussed in the school’s U.S. history curriculum, it is not covered until the end of each school year — a time when teachers and students are already preparing for New York State Regents and AP exams. With limited time left in the academic schedule, Mr. Petretti said, some end-of-year topics are sometimes not “given the full weight of what they deserve.” Even if students had ample time at the end of the year to cover 9/11 in depth, classroom learning would pale in comparison to the weight of visiting ground zero, he added.
“There’s something about walking around in that area that you’re not going to cover in a classroom,” Mr. Petretti said. “We are lucky in that we live close enough to the site and the museum that we can take advantage of that and take a day trip.”
While he was reaching out to the community for help, Mr. Ammirati said he was introduced to Ed Sidor, a Mattituck High School graduate who currently works as senior vice president for buildings and grounds at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Mr. Sidor will give the students a tour of the grounds himself.
While the Class of 2025 will be the first batch of Mattituck students to embark on this field trip, Mr. Ammirati said they will not be the last, as he and his wife have already asked community members who donated to kindly do so next year as well.
“It’ll be an annual trip,” the deli owner said. “We’ll have the funding. People made more generous donations than we thought, so now we have a cushion and we’ll be able to keep it going. I’m excited about it. It means a lot to me and my family.”