FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM SEPTEMBER 16, 2021 • THE QUEENS COURIER 15
St. Michael’s Cemetery mourns 9/11 victims
BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN
St. Michael’s Cemetery in East Elmhurst,
one of the oldest religious, nonprofi t cemeteries
in New York City, hosted a memorial
service and concert on 9/11 to honor
the victims of the attacks as well as the
victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rev. Julie Hoplamazian opened the program,
which was underlined with musical
performances by Sid Cherry and the Brass
22 Band. She refl ected on the “worst day
in U.S. history” and the COVID-19 crisis.
She compared the unity everyone experienced
aft er the tragic events of 9/11 to
the political and ideological fracture that
happened during the COVID-19 crisis.
“COVID-19 has not only separated us,
it has divided us,” the reverend said, “at
a time when we have needed each other
She hoped that no one would ever forget
the lessons 9/11 taught.
“Th e antidote to tragedy is community.
Th e most natural response to pain is
kindness so that we can face life’s greatest
challenges when we do it together,” Rev.
Queens Borough President Donovan
Richards also referred to the current
polarized political climate, a far cry from
unity New Yorkers experienced aft er the
day of infamy 20 years ago.
“We have to overcome hate with love.
We have to get back to that,” Richards
urged. “Remember those days aft er 9/11
when we actually said good morning to
each other? When people would come
up to you, ‘Hey, you’re thirsty? You want
a bottle of water?’ We have to get back to
being humane. Th at’s the way we honor
those who’ve gone on to glory.”
Tony Barsamian of the Queens Gazette,
who led through the program, touched on
Richards’ remarks, but also remembered
the uncertainty that came aft er that day
20 years ago.
“We had no idea if we were going to be
attacked every minute for the rest of our
lives or if we would even live past that
day,” Barsamian said. “And the same thing
with COVID. When it fi rst hit us, we
were totally afraid. As you said, Donovan,
we are the United States of America. We
overcome everything, and we’re united
Assemblyman Zohran Mamadani was
in middle school on Sept. 11, 2001. He
shared that his teacher took him and
another Muslim student out of the classroom
to tell them something had happened
that might change how their classmates
would treat them.
“I bring this up because I think that
in the time since then, we’ve seen all
that is beautiful in our communities and
also all that we still have to recognize,”
Mamadami said. “And in her moment
showing me that care, showing my classmate
that care, and also the fear that she
had that was well rounded.”
Mamadami refl ected on the past 15
months where communities were blamed
for the COVID-19 pandemic only to realize
that no one could stop the pandemic.
“It is a cruel fact that on these two
moments that truly changed our worlds
forever, that New York was at the heart,”
Mamdani said. “But we suff ered the
greatest loss in those moments. And
I mourn the more than 3,000 that we
lost on that day of September. Th e more
than 50,000 over this pandemic, and
also the hundreds of
thousands we’ve lost in
the wars that have had
Former Councilman Costa
Constantinides pointed out that someone
called the Mets, who won Friday night’s
game against the Yankees, heroes.
“Th ose aren’t heroes,” Constantinides
said. “Heroes were the men and women
who we lost, who we continue to lose.
Th ey are what real heroism is all about.
As long as we teach our young people,
they’ll understand about 9/11 the same
way we do.”
Retired Port Authority commanding
offi cer Kenneth Honig was the CO at JFK
and LaGuardia airports at the time, and
said the attacks were personal. Th e Port
Authority lost 84 employees, 37 of them
Port Authority police offi cers.
However, he also honored the countless
fi refi ghters and police offi cers who participated
A memorial for K9 Sirius, who
died on 9/11.
in the largest rescue mission in
the nation’s history, rescuing over 25,000
people from the twin towers before they
“Without regard for their own safety,
they did what they do every single day,”
Honig said. “Th ey put their lives on the
line to save others.”
Maureen Santora, the mother of 23-yearold
fi refi ghter Christopher Santora, the
youngest of the 343 FDNY members who
lost their lives on 911 trying to save others,
shared that Christopher was a talented
Christopher had been a fi refi ghter
for only two months and was assigned
to Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 in
Midtown, which lost more fi refi ghters
than any other fi rehouse in the city.
She addressed the young musicians
of Brass 22 — all
Juilliard students — and
shared how touched
she was while listening
to their performance.
“I heard the calm
before the storm,”
said. “I heard the
chaotic music when
the towers actually
fell. I heard the sadness.
And then I heard
the fact that all the people
who died have people
who love them dearly, and
no matter how long ago
they have died, their love
will never end.”
Maureen Santora, a former teacher, said
that her son, who loved history, would be
disturbed by the current divided climate
where only one opinion seems to matter.
“We need to be kinder to each other. We
need to be more tolerant of each other,”
Maureen Santora said.
His dad Al, a former fi refi ghter, reminded
everyone never to forget the sacrifi ces
made on that fateful September day and
that the names of those etched in the marble
memorial walls “were actual human
beings just like you and me. And they
died, either trying to save someone and
died on that day or died as a result of the
injuries they sustained.”
Like his wife, he asked everyone to treat
each other with more kindness and love.
“What the terrorists did was try to bring
us down. But they didn’t bring us down,
they raised us up,” AL Santora said. “Let’s
keep climbing. Let’s keep rising up.”
Photos by Gabriele Holtermann
A man stands in salute during the National Anthem at the memorial service
for the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks and COVID-19.