Artist working on rail car mural pauses for moment of silence during ceremonies this morning at the Railroad Museum of Long Island. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Tucked away between the little-used train station and the MTA storage yard in Riverhead, hidden from view by what might seem to be abandoned old rail cars, the wedge of land is an unlikely place for a memorial.

But the Railroad Museum of Long Island, which has several board members who were involved in the search and recovery efforts at Ground Zero, embraced the idea for creating a Sept. 11 memorial at the site it leases from the MTA.

Several on the railroad museum board were police officers or firefighters 15 years ago, while two others lived or worked near the World Trade Center, board president Don Fisher said during ceremonies today. One board member was a cop who spent many months “on the pile,” Fisher said. He died a few years ago of esophageal cancer, a disease his family believes was a direct result of his work at Ground Zero and prolonged contact with toxic substances in the air.

Railroad Museum of Long Island president Don Fisher talked about the impacts of Sept. 11 on the organization's board members. Photo: Denise Civiletti
Railroad Museum of Long Island president Don Fisher talked about the impacts of Sept. 11 on the organization’s board members. Photo: Denise Civiletti

“When Patrick approached me about this,” Fisher said, referring to Patrick Voorhees of Medford, who conceived the idea and organized the event, “I knew it would mean a lot to our museum community,” he said . “This is a fitting tribute and this is a fitting place.”

“Remember,” Fisher said, “what makes us human is our art, our music, our poems and our writing.”

The artists who are creating the memorial murals will be invited back next year “and every year after that,” Fisher said to applause from the crowd gathered for this morning’s ceremonies.

Voorhees reached out to numerous street artists — many of them men who share stories of being chased by police for making graffiti on train cars in NYC subway storage yards in the 1970s and ’80s — and prospective business sponsors. Voorhees led the ceremonies, reading aloud from accounts of the events on that tragic day, including interviews of relatives who’d received phone calls from passengers aboard the hijacked jetliners.

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The readings were punctuated by performances of “God Bless America,’ the National Anthem, and other patriotic songs, as well as by moments of silence at the times of impacts of the planes — 8:46, when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower, 9:03, when Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, 9:37, when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon and 10:03, when Flight 93 crashed in western Pennsylvania — and finally, at the times of collapse of each of the towers.

Father Piotr Narkiewicz of St. Isidore’s Church and Rabbi Michael Rascoe of Temple Israel opened the ceremonies with prayers and readings, followed by remarks from Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio. Members of Am Vets Post 111 in Patchogue provided a military salute and Taps.

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RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti

Editor’s note: This article has been amended to reflect a correction in the spelling of the Rev. Piotr Narkiewicz’s name.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.