Hundreds of people gathered in Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.
“I come here every year,” Millie Batyr, a Middle Village resident, said. “The loss of all the people is just so sad and heartbreaking to see the children here without their parents, but it’s nice to see so many people come out each year.”
The memorial took place in a valley with the Towers of Light shining in the background. Patriotic music including Ray Charles’ rendition of “America the Beautiful” were played over a loudspeaker and a handful of poems were recited.
Then members of the 9/11 Memorial Committee and residents who lost love ones read the names of the 115 area residents who died in the towers in 2001.
The most emotional reading came from a 23-year-old man whose father had died.
“We were supposed to play soccer,” he said. “You were going to pick me up early from school and we were going to go play. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of you. I know that you would be proud of my sister and me and would be so happy with your grandchildren.”
The ceremony in Juniper Valley Park is the largest 9/11 memorial in Queens. With so many people holding candles, the park seemed to glow.
“I can never get over how beautiful it is every year,” Helga Yolan said. “Of course this is a sad day but when you come here and you look around at all of the candles and the flowers and the decorations, there is some beauty to it as well. You feel connected to everyone even if you’ve never uttered a word to them in your life.”
After the names were read, Christine Salamino performed an original piece written by Middle Village resident Mark Rosen as attendees turned to face the two streaks of light beaming from downtown Manhattan where the World Trade Center once stood.
“I remember that day so clearly,” Batyr said. “I was in Delaware talking care of my grandchildren and I felt for all of those people all the way from there. I was watching the Today show when the first plane hit the tower and I remember being so sad coming back home and not seeing the towers here.”
Margaret Hein said the memories New Yorkers have of 9/11 can act as a reminder to love one another.
“It’s one of those things that you can never get rid of,” Hein said. “Even if you were doing something mundane, you remember every detail and even though it was such a sad day, it was so nice the way people came together to help one another. I hope we never forget that everyone needs a little help now and again, not just in times of tragedy but in our day-to-day lives.”
The ceremony closed with everyone singing “Proud to be an American,” with committee members holding hands and families holding one another.
Guests were then invited to visit the 9/11 Memorial Garden in the park where luminaria bags and white candles were placed throughout the greenery in honor of all those lost.