Hundreds marched down Park Road in Reeves Park Wednesday night, joined by uniformed members of the Riverhead Fire Department, the Wading River Boy Scouts troop and other groups, to pay their respects to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The procession ended at the northeast corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road, at the new 9/11 Memorial Park dedicated to the first responders who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, as well as all those who’ve been killed in the line of duty in Riverhead Town.
While residents of Reeves Park have held the memorial walk annually, led by the surviving relatives of fallen FDNY firefighter Thomas Kelly, this year marked the first for the newly completed memorial.
The park was built on land that had been slated for development in 2003. Reeves Park residents had fought for years to convince town and county officials to acquire the property and preserve it as a memorial park, with the final acquisition only happening in late 2012.
Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park, served as the master of ceremonies for the event.
He later marveled at the work done by Riverhead Town employees in getting the new park ready for the 9/11 march.
“There’s love in what they did here,” he told a reporter. “Once they got up here and started working and people stopped by and patted them on the back, or gave them the thumbs up as they drove by, they just put their hearts into it.”
“I don’t recall ever seeing this tree before,” said Chris Kelly, a retired New York Police officer, as he admired the work that was done in clearing the site, moving the already placed large rock with a Sept. 11 Memorial on it, and installing benches, a flag pole and landscaping.
Chris Kelly is a cousin of Thomas Kelly, who died in the World Trade Center.
“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Mr. Kelly said of the park and the ceremony, at which he read a poem he had written about his cousin.
Chris Kelly spent time himself at Ground Zero and was working on Sept. 11, 2001, as was Thomas Kelly’s brothers Jim, also a retired city police officer, and Bob, who was a city firefighter at the time and is now retired.
Monday evening, Jim and Bob pushed the wheelchairs of their elderly parents, Emmett and Sue, to the ceremony. The procession started on Marine Street in Reeves Park and progressed south along Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive to the park.
“It was great to see the whole community come out,” Bob Kelly said after the event. “I think they get it. It’s still hard for me to believe this is physically here. It’s part of the whole town now.
“It’s going to be here for everybody, for generations to come.”