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Remembering the city’s fallen on 9/11

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Michele Puckett-Formolo couldn’t believe it when she heard that her father, John, had been killed during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in 2001. Puckett-Formolo, then 16, was attending Glen Cove High School when she heard about the attacks. Her father was a sound engineer working at the North Tower that morning, so when Puckett-Formolo found out that a plane had struck the building, she wanted to think that he was somehow alright.

“I was in denial,” Puckett-Formolo said. “I thought he went on an early break or he wasn’t actually working there that morning, anything that would mean he wasn’t up there.”

Like thousands of others that day, Puckett-Formolo eventually learned that her father had indeed died at the WTC. John was one of four victims from Glen Cove — including Edward Lehman, Matthew McDermott and Joseph Zuccala — each of whom was honored by the city during the annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at Pratt Park. As Mayor Timothy Tenke announced each victim’s name, a bell was rung in front of the city’s 9/11 Memorial, which commemorates the victims and the first responders at the WTC.

“What other day do we remember so vividly,” Tenke asked. “This is a day to remember the victims, their families, the survivors and the first responders, many of whom are still suffering today.”

Tenke added that the tragedy of the Sept. 11 attacks shouldn’t fuel hatred and division in the U.S., a sentiment echoed by Nassau County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, who said she was with her two toddlers that morning when she saw the attacks on her television. DeRiggi-Whitton explained that while Sept. 11 was a day of solace, Sept. 12 represented a day when New York state and the country came together as one.

“We should remember Sept. 12 as the day we all hung our flags outside,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “We responded with unity that day.”

She added that the nation still needed to come together for the first responders who rushed to find survivors at the WTC. More than 200 firefighters have died from WTC-related illnesses since the attacks and more than 70,000 are currently enrolled in the WTC Health Program. In July, the federal government signed a permanent extension of funding for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

As she helped Tenke place a wreath in front of the 9/11 Memorial, Puckett-Formolo said she enjoyed the ending of the ceremony that honored her father’s life. Despite the grief and sorrow, Puckett-Formolo attends the ceremony every year.

“It’s important to come together like this,” she said. “It’s about unity in our community, and that’s special.”