By Dagmar Fors Karppi
If you even doubted this area is a part of the New York City metropolitan area, last week's events proved it true. As information about the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers was disseminated, it seconded the comments of Dan Burden of Walkable Communities, Inc. when he called Oyster Bay the best small town in the heart of the largest metropolitan area in the world.
Now with the growing knowledge of the number of people involved in the crisis, alive, missing and dead, the enormity of the event keeps growing. The community is responding.
In memory of those who perished in the tragedies of Sept. 11, there will be a community memorial service held on Sunday Sept. 30, at 4 p.m. at Christ Church. Members of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich community are invited to submit the names of family members, friends and colleagues who were lost that day.
A list of the departed is being created and will be read at the service.
Please e-mail your list of names to: memorialatchristchurch obay.com or contact any of the local church parish offices. You can call Christ Church at 922-6377 and leave a message at voice mail extension 10. You can call St. Dominic's at 922-4488 and First Presbyterian Church at 922-5477.
In addition there will be a blood drive at the First Presbyterian Church at 60 East Main Street on Tuesday, Sept. 25, from 3:15 to 8:15 p.m. Please contact the church office at 922-5477 to make an appointment.
On Monday, Sept. 17, the Interreligious and Human Needs Council met at the Oyster Bay Jewish Center to make plans. Eve Bernstein is the co-chair along with Rev. Kenneth Nelson of Hood AME Zion Church, who is recovering from surgery.
The very first response from the community was made by the local fire companies as the local firefighters rushed to their firehouses.
On Tuesday, at the town hall public information office, Kurt Ludwig said they were on alert, waiting for information from the Nassau County Emergency Management Office. They were following the chain of command learned at an earlier event, the Avianca crash. "Avianca was an indication of how well the cooperation between services worked. The Nassau Fire Departments are moblizing to go to Queens as part of their mutual aid response. Firefighters here go to locations closer to New York to man their stations, in case of fire."
As he spoke, knowledge about the lost firefighters and policemen had been announced. "The Supervisor said it was a monumental and apocalyptic event," said Mr. Ludwig.
"From all my years in the fire department, I have no idea of the magnitude of the problem," he said. Mr. Ludwig is a member of the North Massapequa Fire Department.
"Our guys are ready to go right now. It is really a strange feeling. Is it all over - we don't know. That weighs on the minds of firefighters. When the firefighters first entered the town they had no idea of what they were facing.
"When I was coming to work, across the South Oyster Bay Expressway, I saw smoke coming from the west."
He said, "A lot of volunteer firefighters in the town have left their jobs to join their units in preparation of what has to be done. There are a lot of volunteer firefighters in town government. They are community minded people, whose lives are woven into the community and have a lot of interest in the town. They are people oriented people who are also service oriented."
The firefighters in the town left for NYC, before noon on Tuesday. "Unfortunately, my public information job with the town supercedes or I would be doing that too. Hopefully when the obligations clear I can take care of some fire duties too," he said.
Locally, fire teams from the Atlantic Steamer, Oyster Bay Fire Co. 1 and East Norwich headed out at about 2 p.m. Trucks and equipment went to Belmont Track and ambulances went to Shea Stadium to be ready to go into the city.
The Atlantic Steamer Company sent their ladder and equipment van. The East Norwich Fire Department sent an ambulance, pumper and heavy rescue truck with emergency equipment.
There are four ENFD members in the NYC fire department: Mark Syrett, Danny Joyce, John Shoemaker and Alan Neuendorf.
The ENFD sent their heavy rescue engine to Belmont Race Track and their ambulance to Shea Stadium.
The OBFD No.1 has three members who are NYC Firemen: Joe Minicozzi, Jr.; Jason Craft, an EMS; Paul Lang, a firefighter. They also have two members who are NYC Police Officers: Chris and Bob Gourney.
Outside the Francis P. DeVine Funeral Home, Inc., was an American flag and a poster saying "We pray with you. We hope with you. We mourn with you. God Bless America." Both Karen DeVine-Minicozzi and her husband Joe are members of OBF Co. 1. He is also, as we noted above, a NYC fireman.
In town people were calling each other to see how friends and colleagues were doing.
Andrew Batten, director of Raynham Hall Museum was getting calls from people who were concerned about board members working in the city, on Tuesday. By Monday, Sept. 17, he could say their board was fine although "some of our members have lost family and friends."
He said "Lower Manhattan looked like Pompeii after Vesuvius erupted, with everything covered with ash." He said friends of his were in the fire duty in the city.
Mr. Batten recalled Dec. 7, 1941, as did many others. "My father was a young man when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I can only assume that this is what it felt like.
"My father was driving home from his mother's funeral and saw people pulled over at the side of the road. His cousin's wife was crying so he pulled over to talk to them. He joined the Navy the next day," said Mr. Batten.
Father Malcolm Burns of St. Dominic's took part in a candlelight service held in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial field on Wednesday, Sept. 12 with about 140 people. "The mothers from St. Dominic High School and Oyster Bay High School organized the event. They asked me to start it out. Young people and teenagers spoke. It was important that people did that. They offered prayers from their seats on the bleachers.
"People were speaking out in a spirit of love. The people really were the ones that were inspiring," said Father Malcolm.
He said he started and ended the service by leading the others in singing.
"There are seven or eight missing people involved in the World Trade Tower attack. We know the families and are going to pray for them at our Mass. We put them in God's hands."
He said he was truly concerned for families that have lost fathers and children who have to go on with their lives.
"We may have to organize support groups for them, if they have a close relative, an uncle or a friend. It is a situation that has to be dealt with through prayer," he said.
"Every parish has somebody missing."
At each Mass they announced the family names to be prayed for.
"There are seven or eight we know from Mill Neck, East Norwich, Upper Brookville and Oyster Bay areas," said Father Burns. "There are even people from Huntington, that are parishioners who have moved away."
Father Burns tried to call those people with missing relatives even if they were not from his flock.
On Friday, Sept. 14 he said, they were already scheduled to celebrate the Triumph of the Stations of the Cross. In light of what has happened it was on target. "So that while the cross is bloody and brutalized, we can triumph. This is our message," he said.
Friday was the day President Bush called for a National Day of Mourning and many people spent their lunch hours in local churches or where they work.
On Saturday, following Mayor Rudy Giuliani's words that people return to their regular lives, the Friends of the Bay held their scheduled cleanup at Beekman Beach and Centre Island.
Robert Spuhler was at Beekman Beach. He was sitting on one of the benches looking out across the harbor. "Last week the sky was covered with planes coming and going to LaGuardia Airport, Connecticut, across the bay and others to Kennedy. Now there is nothing in the sky. Oyster Bay is quiet. Even the trains are quiet: they aren't going in or out of the city."
He was concerned about the effect on children. "I have three girls, 5, 7 and 8 who live on the South Shore and airplanes from Kennedy airport go by the house. They're afraid the planes will fall and hit the house. I've tried to quiet their fears. It's a real shame this whole thing happened."
Mr. Spuhler works at Martin Viette and has lived in Oyster Bay since April. "What's going to come out is that more innocent people will be harmed for the sake of Bin Laden. Why don't they realize their terrorist acts will effect their people and our people. All it causes is a lot more grief and bloodshed for families."
He said, "Even the town is quiet. It will take time before people begin to think normally and get back to everyday life. You couldn't live in a better location," he said. "A lot of people are jealous of us, but if they could come here and see how it is living in freedom."
He said here there is opportunity for people to work hard and live better. Many of those nations live in poverty, he said. "They are all hard working people. Why don't they come here. Our doors are open to them."
He was sorry that it appears that the terrorists are encouraged to think of their efforts as a "holy war.
"That isn't what religion is about," he said.
Mr. Spuhler has always loved flying. He has been working since he was 11 or 12, helping his mother make ends meet. "If I made $50 I kept $10 and gave her 40.
"Oyster Bay is a wonderful town to live in. It reminds me of East Rockaway where I grew up with wharfs and piers and fishing boats. I grew up in water.
"There are a lot of warm people here. The store owners became friends through my working at Martin Viette," he said.
Patricia Hambrook was also at Beekman with her sons Richard and John. "We had to get out and see the beauty of the world was still here because the evil in the world was taking over." She too had been watching the events unfolding on television.
She said on Channel 13, a Columbia University professor said something worth repeating. She paraphrased his statement, "One of the tricks of the devil is to make you think that evil is everywhere but it's not. There's good everywhere."