Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 15 July 2011 00:00
Before the dedication ceremony for the new 9/11 Memorial Park, located right across from the Plainview Diner on Old Country Road and Hope Drive, Concerned Citizens of Plainview-Old Bethpage President Carol Meschkow remembered her own experience on the morning of September 11, 2001. The attacks, she said, felt surreal and incomprehensible.
“As the day began to wear on and more and more information was brought to the forefront- [and I] saw more and more people I knew who were touched by the event- I thought we had to do something,” said Meschkow.
The Concerned Citizens immediately put a memorial page on their website, which remains online to this day. Wanting to do more, eight years ago Meschkow approached Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto with a thumbnail sketch for a small memorial park to utilize a fallow park space, Parklet #10, saved with one of the town’s SEA (Save Environmental Assets) Fund Bonds. Both Venditto and Meschkow agreed that it was especially important for young people to understand the significance of 9/11, even as time marches on and the event starts to recede in the popular consciousness.
After years of planning, two years ago, Meschkow became aware that the Port Authority of NY/NJ had released a thousand pieces from the wreckage at Ground Zero that had been used as forensic evidence, and organizations could apply to display them at venues such as the one she was overseeing; it seemed clear that displaying one of these pieces would be a fitting tribute to the victims, and to help residents remember the reality of the events of 9/11. Meschkow applied for a small piece, and then proceeded to wait- for quite a while, she said.
“But whether I heard from them or not, we had the plans; we knew that we had really selected a serene, forgotten spot in our community, a place to contemplate, and we felt it was going to be beautiful,” said Meschkow.
Humbled to be selected by the Port Authority, Meschkow unveiled the new monument before an audience of police, firemen, local officials, and many residents of all ages at the July 10 dedication ceremony.
Town Supervisor John Venditto, whom Meschkow thanked repeatedly for his support in bringing the memorial project to fruition, spoke briefly about the significance of the day. “Today is about honoring the memory of those lives that we lost on September 11, but it’s also about remembering those lives,” said Venditto.
At the ceremony, members of American Legion Plainview Post 1812 served as the color guard, while the Boy Scouts of Troop 170 led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Kaitlyn Sheehan, a graduate of John F. Kennedy High School, sang moving renditions of both the national anthem and God Bless America. Finally, Venditto asked for a moment of silence to remember those lost on 9/11.
“Because I assure you- I assure you- honor and remembrance are two staples that we must continue not only today, but for the benefit of our children and our children’s children, because if we ever forget- if we ever forget the sacrifice that those men and women made for us on September 11, I’m telling you as sure as we are all standing and seated here today, we’ll lose each and every one of those freedoms and opportunities that we enjoy; we will greatly diminish the quality of life that we hold so dear right here in our beautiful community of Plainview in the Town of Oyster Bay,” said the Supervisor.
Meshkow also asked for applause for the many men in uniform present at the ceremony. “We need you 24-7, 365, and our applause is just a small symbol of how much we appreciate you,” she said.
With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this year, Meschkow said that the park might host a small candlelight vigil to mark the significance of the day, but the Concerned Citizens do not have any large events planned; they don’t want to compete with other events planned by fire departments, police, the Port Authority, or municipalities. “We want a place to observe locally, but again, we don’t want to divide people,” she said.
Indeed, it was made clear at the ceremony that the goal of the memorial was to bring the community together- in remembrance, and in more pleasant pursuits, such as enjoying the afternoon’s beautiful sunny weather in the new park- as much as possible.