Family, friends and neighbors will gather together on Tuesday for memorials on the 17th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
The Vigilant Fire Company will meet at the firehouse at 8 a.m. and hold a flag ceremony at 8:15 a.m. The public is welcome to join the Vigilants at 8:30 a.m. at the 9/11 Memorial on the Barstow Road side of Jonathan L. Ielpi Firefighters Park, which was named to honor Great Neck resident Jonathan Lee Ielpi, a longtime Vigilant volunteer, who lost his life at just 29 years old while working as a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department.
The Town of North Hempstead will hold a memorial service at 8:30 a.m. at Mary Jane Davies Green on Plandome Road in Manhasset to honor those who lost their lives 17 years ago, including the 56 people from the town.
Temple Israel of Great Neck’s Men’s Club, which typically marks the tragedy with a community service at the Village of Saddle Rock’s 9/11 Memorial Bridge, will commemorate the date during Rosh Hashanah services.
Village of Great Neck residents were quite surprised to learn that as the Rosh Hashanah holiday comes to a close at sundown, the village will hold a board meeting at 9 p.m. Village residents were further shocked to learn that the meeting was scheduled on such a solemn day, September 11. What stunned them most was that the meeting was announced through a robocall on Sept. 6, as this type of message is usually reserved for emergencies.
“[Mayor Pedram] Bral’s decision to hold a quickie meeting at 9 p.m. on September 11 is an insult to all of us, and he did it casually, by a robocall,” said Rebecca Rosenblatt Gilliar, a longtime village resident. “A robocall is a last-minute mechanism governments use to warn citizens of storms and flooding, natural events unplanned. Mayor Bral announced a ‘special’ trustee meeting via a recorded phone call so he would appear inclusive while sidestepping the democratic process. The phone call was a charade for a number of reasons: As he often does, Bral’s call pretends to include village residents in a decision he has already made, and he sets the meeting at a date and time that ensures most people will not be able to show up.”
The Vigilants felt it was important to hold the memorial at the time of the horrific catastrophe.
“We will be at Firefighters Park in the morning,” said Vigilant Chief Josh Charry, when finalizing the details. “Even though it is the second day of Rosh Hashanah, we feel it is important to mark the observance at the time of the incident.”
At the ceremony, Ielpi will be remembered along with Great Neck residents Frederick Kuo Jr., Richard Yun Choon Lee, Joshua Vitale and Andrew Stergiopoulos for whom the Parkwood Sports Complex ice rink was named, members of the community who all perished with the thousands of others on that tragic day.
Two Vigilant first responders who in recent years lost their long battles with cancer related to their service on 9/11 will also be remembered. Vigilant President Kenneth Bleck passed away at his Great Neck Estates home at 64 on Sept. 15, 2016, and Doris Groene, who was one of the first women to volunteer with the Vigilant Fire Company ambulance in 1986 and worked her way up to president, passed away on June 23, 2017 at her home in Mesquite, NV, at age 77.
As the result of being a 9/11 first responder, Groene’s son Raymond Plakstis, former Village of Great Neck deputy mayor and a two-time chief of the Alert Fire Company, continues to battle stage IV stomach cancer, the third-leading form of cancer from 9/11.
“It becomes more important each year to mark this anniversary, as for those who were not directly affected the significance fades,” said Charry. “We are now faced with the sobering fact that we have members of the fire company who were too young to understand what happened that day and who also may have no clear memories of it. These members are learning about 9/11 from a historical perspective in school (if at all) and it falls to those who were there and involved to pass along the lessons learned firsthand that day.”