Rockland County Sept. 11 Memorial Service Marks Tragic Anniversary

More than 250 family members, friends and county residents, some too young to remember the victims, pay their respects.


Bryan Longing does not remember his mother who was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center on , 2001. He was only four months and two days old. His older brother, William, was also very young when she died. 

The brothers were among the 250 relatives, friends and community members who came to remember Rockland residents and others with ties to the county at Tuesday’s Memorial Service at Haverstraw Bay County Park. 

Bryan said even though he did not have any memories of his mother he attended “for my mom. It’s really difficult because I actually never got to see her.”

12-year-old William said he recalls, “Just being with her every day when I was a baby.”

Their aunt, Donna O’Shea, said the boys have been attending the ceremony at the park since the memorial was created. They were joined by their grandparents, relatives and family friends. 

Karen Banyo of Tuxedo and Cheryl Russo of Garnerville lost their sister Jane Alonso. Russo said even though it is difficult for them, the ceremony is important because it helps people to remember and others to learn about what happened. 

“I think it brings it all up again,” she said. “It’s something we feel we have to do. I want to keep the memory alive for my sister and all those who lost their lives. I would hope that no one would forget.”

She found it disturbing when she heard some people did not know what happened on September 11, 2001.   Harriet Cornell, chair of the Rockland County Legislature, included that thought in her remarks. Cornell said that it falls to everyone attending to educate younger generations about 9/11 because it is not always included in textbooks. County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef asked attendees to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and members of the armed forces who make the ultimate sacrifice.

In the beginning, Russo said the family went to the memorial service at the World Trade Center site but since the memorial was completed, they have been attending the service in West Haverstraw because “this is where she lived.” Russo said her brother-in-law, niece and nephew were with them and the children helped to place yellow roses by the names of the victims s they were read aloud.

The Rockland County Police Emerald Society Bagpipers opened the service and closed it with “Amazing Grace.” Clarkstown Police Chaplain David Lothrop led the service. Cantor Sally Neff of Temple Beth Torah in Upper Nyack sang “The Star Spangled Banner” and “I Will Remember You” and Julie Graifman sang “God Bless America.”

The tribute include the names of those who perished and readings of poems and letters, several by parents who lost children.

“We Remember Them” from the Jewish Book of Prayer – Ruth Graifman

“When Tomorrow Starts Without Me” – Anne Pettus

“Look For Me In Rainbows” – Lucy Roberto

“A Letter From Heaven” – Fran Sennas

As the names were read by Cheryl Russo, Gary Graifman, Anne Pettus, Semo Sennas, Lorraine Caiazzo, Barbara Bodnar and Laurie Weinberg Berkowitz; children placed yellow roses near each name. 

The audience composed of young and old was silent during the ceremony. Some quietly shed tears.

The bell tolled at 8:46 a.m. in remembrance of the attack on the north tower and at 9:03 a.m. in remembrance of the attack on the south tower. The bell tolled four more times to signify the attack on the Pentagon, the collapse of the south tower, the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA and the collapse of the north tower. 

In closing, Chaplain Lothrop said, “It is not what is engraved in stone that lasts but what is woven in the lives of others.”


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