The 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was commemorated in Juniper Valley Park in Middle Village much the same way it was two decades ago, when about 6,000 people were drawn to an impromptu gathering.
Twenty years later, the 9/11 Candlelight Vigil Committee of Queens still was welcoming those who came to the park on a lovely summer day. Many brought lawn chairs, American flags and their own candles for the vigil that would take place after nightfall. They listened to music and poetry and brief talks from community groups and elected officials.
Veterans displayed the nation’s colors, and first-responder groups were very well-represented
And all stayed until the 113 names of those lost from neighborhoods in Middle Village, Maspeth and others were read aloud; and two beacons of light shone into the sky from Downtown Manhattan where the Twin Towers had stood.
But the messages were almost uniformly positive.
“I like to think about Sept. 12,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr., remembering how the acts intended to sow fear and division had actually united the country like nothing had in decades.
Other dignitaries included U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), Deputy Borough President Rhonda Binda, Assemblymembers Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) and Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and City Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village).
A stunning, touching display that returned this year was a memorial crafted by Mark Papadimitriou, a sheetmetal worker from Middle Village. It features the Twin Towers engraved with the names of all lost.
In front are planted polished metal crosses commemorating those killed; images of police officers and firefighters kneeling in remembrance of their own dead; and ornately crafted tributes to groups such as the passengers of United Flight 93, where a passenger uprising threatened to retake the cockpit, causing a panicked hijacker pilot to crash into a Pennsylvania field rather than a target believed to have been the White House or U.S. Capitol.
And when the sun went down, interior lights of red and blue offered a patriotic tone.
“This is my tribute to people who risk their lives every day by just getting up and going to work,” he said.
Jean Marie Termine, a photographer from Middle Village, was at the memorial to take photos for Papadimitriou. But she also brought her young children.
“I decided it was time to begin teaching them about 9/11,” she said.
Another featured guest was Melissa Rojas, a junior at Christ the King High School, who won first place in a 9/11 essay contest sponsored by the Candlelight Vigil Committee. Second and third place went to Jeanpierre Paniagua and Amanda Ramirez, respectively, also from CTK.
Organizers said, in fact, that of 13 schools invited to participate in the essay contest, Christ the King was the only one to accept.
“They should be teaching about 9/11 in every school,” Holden remarked.