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Middle Village memorial vigil canceled due to weather, but locals still gather to commemorate victims lost on 9/11

Sep. 12, 2023 By Anthony Medina

The 9/11 Vigil Committee of Queens candlelight vigil in Middle Village was canceled for the first time in its history due to a thunderstorm, but local residents in the Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale and Ridgewood neighborhoods still made the effort to come down to the memorial site.

Frank DeBiase, president of the 9/11 Vigil Committee, said the decision to cancel the 22nd anniversary remembrance ceremony was a mutual decision between the city’s Parks Department and the committee.

Usually hundreds of people gather at the memorial site at Juniper Valley Park, making it one of the largest of Queens’ vigils honoring the lives lost due to the attacks on 9/11.

DeBiase made clear that the point of these events — regardless if they are held in public or in the comfort of one’s home — are about always remembering the lives lost on that tragic day.

“Our big thing that we always say is we don’t want this day to ever become just another chapter in the kids history books,” DeBiase said.

Despite the unusual cancellation of the vigil, Andy and Liz Burzynski came to the memorial site to remember the lives of multiple firefighters and first responders who lost their lives. Andy said he most recently learned that someone he knew from high school also passed away in the 9/11 attacks.

The couple recalled how the uncertainty from what actually happened added to the confusion on the day of the attacks. They, like many parents, were in a rush to pick up their children. Liz was watching the events unfold on television.

“We thought that was probably a small plane. Maybe the pilot had a heart attack on something. And then while we’re watching, the second one came and then we just ran to pick up the kids from school,” Liz said.

Al Haag Jr., from Al Haag & Son Plumbing in Glendale, also spoke with QNS at the memorial site. He said he’s attended every memorial service since the first one.

He, like many others who were nearby Juniper Valley Park, witnessed the smoke emitting from the towers and knew of a firefighter who died while responding.

Today, the towers are memorialized through beams of light shooting into the night sky.

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. made an effort to appear despite the cancellation and local FDNY firefighters from Engine 319 also came to show their respects.

“This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. There is now an entire generation of New Yorkers who weren’t alive when the attacks happened and it is up to us to keep our promise to never forget,” Addabbo said in a statement. “We can live up to that promise by remembering those who perished in the tragedy and the brave first responders who rushed directly into danger and gave their lives to help save others. We should tell the stories of the largest rescue mission our country has ever witnessed. We must also provide the surviving first responders with the healthcare they deserve for the conditions they developed from risking their lives on that fateful day.”

One of the FDNY firefighters in attendance told QNS they weren’t in the service when the attacks happened, but remember what it was like in the city. The stories he heard from older firefighters told of none stop efforts in “the pit,” with some headed into the remains of the towers saying they knew they were going to die.

Over the weekend leading up to Monday, Sept. 11, Glendale residents gathered at the 9/11 Memorial Garden, located at the Dry Harbor Playground, for a 9/11 memorial ceremony.  The ceremony paid tribute to the 42 residents of Glendale, Middle Village, Ridgewood and Woodhaven who perished in the 9/11 attacks. Councilman Robert Holden attended the ceremony and stood alongside fellow Queens legislators, including Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, Community Board 5 District Leader Gary Giordano, Community Board 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri Jr, local leaders and FDNY service members.

A ceremony and wreath laying at the Maspeth Memorial, on corner of 69th Street and Grand Avenue, also served as another place where the community commemorated the lives lost on 9/11. Members of the Maspeth firehouse – Squad 288, Hazmat 1, – took the time to remember those service members who perished under the 9/11 attacks.

In the nearby neighborhood of Woodhaven on Monday, Sept. 11, The Woodhaven Business Improvement District held an intimate 9/11 memorial ceremony on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and Forest Parkway.  The BID was also joined by Queens legislators, including Addabbo, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar and Councilwoman Joann Ariola. Local leaders and Community Board 9 Chair Sherry Algredo also gathered to pay their respects.

Throughout the city, memorial events honoring the victims of the 9/11 attacks and the essential first responders who played a crucial role in the aftermath continue to hold great significance even over two decades after the tragic day — a testament to the commitment to never forget.

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