09/12/13 8:00am
09/12/2013 8:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Hundreds marched down Park Road in Reeves Park Monday 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.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Hundreds marched down Park Road in Reeves Park Monday 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.

Our country was changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001, and the fallout from the events of that terrible day has yielded nothing glorious except the inspiring deeds of individuals in service to others.

We’ve witnessed the courage, selflessness and nobility of the victims and their families; of the soldiers who later fought and died for their comrades and their country; and, perhaps above all, of the emergency responders of that day — and every day.

Perhaps one of the greater goods to come out of the terrorist attacks 12 years ago is the evolution of Sept. 11 as a sort of de facto holiday on which we remember and honor the work of police, firefighters and ambulance workers in communities throughout the U.S. During Sept. 11 every year, TV, newspapers and social media abound with tributes and thanks to these brave men and women. God knows they deserve it.

But for far too long, their sacrifices had gone largely overlooked, except in the cases of tragedy or uniquely heroic acts. Our emergency responders perform heroic acts each and every day. Waking up in the middle of the night to respond to a fire alarm or an accident is a heroic act. Sacrificing time with relatives — sometimes missing out on birthday parties or ballgames — is a heroic act. And the support and understanding of first responders’ spouses and children are acts of sacrifice and heroism as well.

Sept. 11 has become a day to remember these sacrifices and tip our hats to those who work to protect the rest of us from fire, accidents, violence and health hazards. For these reasons, The Suffolk Times supports the call for making Sept. 11 a national holiday.

As Veterans Day and Memorial Day honor all American members of the Armed Forces, past and present, Sept. 11, a day marred by great loss and tragedy, can and should be turned into something similarly grand: an official day to honor those who died on that day or in its aftermath, along with all those still fighting terrorism abroad and those continuing to serve as everyday heroes in their own communities.

09/11/13 8:57pm
09/11/2013 8:57 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The procession walks along Park Road in Reeves Park toward the new 9/11 Memorial at the corner of Park and Sound Avenue Wednesday night.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The procession walks along Park Road in Reeves Park toward the new 9/11 Memorial at the corner of Park and Sound Avenue Wednesday night.

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.”


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04/27/13 6:00am
04/27/2013 6:00 AM

Sgt. Jonathan Keller

Martin Keller doesn’t have to think long and hard to come up with the single biggest reason his son Jonathan chose to serve in the Army National Guard.

“The Twin Towers,” Mr. Keller said, referring to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “He was so moved by what happened that day. He was very patriotic.”

A little more than two years after the attacks, Sgt. Keller, who had served in the Navy following his 1998 graduation from Shoreham-Wading River High School, joined the famous “Fighting 69th” infantry division of the New York State Army Reserve.

He served in the 69th Infantry while attending classes at Hofstra University, where he pursued an undergraduate degree in health sciences. He also worked as a personal trainer at a gym in New York City during that time.

Going above and beyond to help others was something Sgt. Keller did with a smile throughout his life, friends and family members said.

At his wake, his mother told friends about all the people who came forward after his death with tales of how he made sacrifices for them.

“There was one girl they didn’t even know who told them he drove her to school every day because she didn’t have a car,” said classmate Kendra McCarrick.

His willingness to sacrifice ultimately led him in 2008 to Kunar Province in Afghanistan, where he served with the 172nd Airborne along the Pakistani border. Among the deadliest and most dangerous regions for U.S. troops, slightly more than half the enemy contact during the current conflict in Afghanistan has taken place in Kunar, according to published reports.

Sgt. Keller and the 172nd Airborne were forced to engage in frequent gunfights with Taliban forces there, his father said.

“He was in numerous firefights,” Mr. Keller said. “There were a lot of them.”

Serving as a gunner defending a border ambush on April 23, 2008, Sgt. Keller, who was promoted to that rank posthumously, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his arm. After nine months of ups and downs while attempting to recover from his injuries, he succumbed to an infection at Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg on Jan. 24, 2009. The 29-year-old was the first Riverhead Town soldier killed in the current military efforts in the Middle East.

Four years later, Mr. Keller is still at a loss for words trying to discuss his son’s final nine months, during which he endured 11 operations.

“It’s really hard to describe,” he said. “I thought he was recovering. He had so many operations — one after the other.”

Sgt. Keller’s injury and heroism earned him the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Meritorious Medal, his father said.

At his funeral, which was attended by more than 400 people, Msgr. James Pereda of St. John’s R.C. Church in Wading River said there are no words for such a loss.

“For one so young, so good, who had an infectious smile and always kept a boyish and youthful enthusiasm for everything in life, is it natural to ask why was he taken from us?” the priest asked. “It is a question I do not have an answer to, nor do my brother priests.”

Ms. McCarrick said Sgt. Keller “always wanted to be someone that people were proud of.”

“And I think he was proud to be a part of [the Army],” she said. “It was good for him. He was looking for the camaraderie.”

And his fellow troops respected him. Speaking to Newsday at his funeral, 69th Infantry Lt. Louis Delli-Pizzi of West Islip said Sgt. Keller was a special guy.

“Warrior, leader, great soldier,” he said. “That’s how he lived. He’s going to be remembered in the Fighting 69th for how he lived.”

gparpan@timesreview.com

09/26/12 10:00am
09/26/2012 10:00 AM
Thomas Kelly, FDNY

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOS| Reeves Park residents placed candles at a small memorial for Tom Kelly near Sound Avenue earlier this month on Sept. 11. A new park would be dedicated to his memory.

Plans to build a 9-11 Memorial Park on a four-acre parcel Suffolk County is proposing to buy on the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow took a step forward last week, when the Suffolk County Parks Trustees approved the park plan at their meeting in Montauk.

Suffolk County still needs to actually purchase the land, which requires an authorizing resolution from the county Legislature.

The property is owned by EMB Enterprises, headed by Kenney Barra, who had originally sought to build shops ton the parcel until the plan ran into opposition.

His attorney, Peter Danowski, has recently questioned whether the county plans to move forward with the purchase, citing the time it’s taken, although officials recently said the acquisition is moving forward.

The park would be dedicated to nearby Reeves Avenue resident Thomas Kelly, a NYC firefighter.

Bob Kelly, Tom’s brother, recently told the News-Review he hopes the park will happen within the next year.

He envisions the site as a memorial for all those who died on that day, as well as the families, loved ones and those who have gotten sick and died from working in the toxic air in the days and weeks that followed.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/12/12 12:00pm
09/12/2012 12:00 PM
Tom Kelly, Sept. 11, WTC, FDNY

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Reeves Park residents, including Thomas Kelly’s parents (center), brothers and sister at Tuesday night’s vigil.

Residents of the tight-knit Reeves Park community came together as the sun set Tuesday evening to remember fallen New York City firefighter Tommy Kelly as a neighbor, friend, brother and son.

A Brooklyn firefighter, he was killed responding to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers.

The group gathered with candles lit at the corner of Marine Street and Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive/Park Road, where Tommy lived at the time of his death. He died in the south tower of the World Trade Center.

As the vigil proceeded with an escort of Riverhead volunteer firefighters the Reliable Engine firetruck, Tom Kelly’s parents, Emmet, a retired member of the FDNY, and Sue sat side by side in wheelchairs, with blankets across their laps to guard against the evening chill.

They were waiting for the procession next to the memorial to their son at the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.

The Kelly family started the day attending a mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Park Slope Brooklyn, where Tom Kelly’s Engine Co. 219 and Ladder Co. 105 firehouse is located.

Before the vigil, Tom’s brother, Bob Kelly, told a reporter it was “good to see that the community comes together for this and that they haven’t forgotten.”

Sound Park Heights president Eric Biegler addressed the community: “It was a monumental event that has shaped a generation; 11 years is a long time. Some of us have forgotten as life goes on. We forget to take time to sit and reflect.”

He reminded all that “coming together as a community, friends and family, we have not forgotten the heroes. We will never forget.”

Bob Kelly said he hopes a planned 9/11 memorial park to honor his brother’s memory will happen within the next year, and that it will become a memorial for all those who died on that day, as well as the families, loved ones and those who got sick and died.

The memorial is planned for property at the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive that has been slated for development. Suffolk County government has taken steps to purchase the land for preservation.

“It is going to be something really special,” he said. “Hopefully next year.”

Tom’s sister, Jeanne Farrell of Rockville Center, also spoke at the event.

“On behalf of our family thank you all for coming out and helping us remember this 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks,” she said. “We traditionally end our day here in Reeves Park. It is fitting to us because this is where Tommy began and ended each of his days.

“We are all very lucky to have this place, this paradise to come to.”

She then read this prayer:

May all of us remember with compassion this  day.
Mat we grieve with those who still continue to grieve
And morn with those who still morn.
And continue to share memories with those who will never forget
And draw strength from the brave men and women who were the heroes of that day. And who gave their lives for others.
May we stand together with our strangers who that day became our friends.
May we remember always their love,kindness , and compassion and generosity.
Above all may we stand together as one and Never Forget!

photo@timesreview.com

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