Seventeen years have passed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, but Riverhead has not forgotten.
Dozens gathered Tuesday evening for the neighborhood’s annual candlelight walk and remembrance at the 9/11 Memorial Park, located on Sound Avenue and Park Road, also known as Lt. Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.
Mr. Kelly was one of two Reeves Park residents who died on 9/11. He and Jonathan Ielpi, whose family owns a summer home in the area, both served as New York City firefighters.
Holding American flags and candles, community members joined by members of the Riverhead Fire Department, Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, boy scouts and other groups walked solemnly from Marine Street ahead of the ceremony, which has been held since 2010.
“They were both firefighters,” explained Eric Biegler, vice president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association. “To have two people from this community … it was a shock,” Mr. Biegler said of the loss.
In between remarks from Mr. Biegler and family members of Mr. Kelly and Mr. Ielpi, Reeves Park summer resident Caitlin Beirne sang and her cousin Brian Noone played taps on his trumpet.
“Today, 17 years later, we pause to remember, pray for those who sacrificed and come together united. We remember the first time we heard the news, we recall the first time we saw those images, we remember the heroism of the many that lost their lives saving others. Our thoughts and prayers are with them again,” Mr. Biegler said during the moving ceremony.
For Steven Kelly, the day was all about remembering the legacy of his uncle, Thomas.
Mr. Kelly said holding these ceremonies is important to ensure that their memories live on. “It’s important to continue to tell their stories, to tell their jokes, so that their memory may never fade, so that they may live on in all of us for the next generation,” he said.
Thomas Kelly was a role model to his nephew Steven.
“He taught me to scuba dive right here at the wrecks. He taught me about sharks at Atlantis where he volunteered,” he said. “He taught me how to find and use the whistles in Super Mario Brothers and how to beat the game. To root for the home team — the Mets — and to never give up until that last out is recorded. He taught me that ‘You Gotta Believe.’ ”
Those lessons are now being passed down to his young son.
“That’s how he has become immortal in the lives he touched.”