Keeping 9/11 Memories Alive In Carle Place

The flag was at half mast at the beginning of the ceremony, but then was raised. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Officially, no resident of Carle Place was killed as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. But of course, everyone in the hamlet was affected, and no doubt many knew of or were related to victims.

Charles “Chuck” Karen of Carle Place was engaged in rescue efforts at Ground Zero and died of 9/11-related cancer on Nov. 4, 2015. His widow Tina annually attends the Carle Place ceremony. (File Photo)

And judged by the truism that not all those who perished at Ground Zero died that day, Charles “Chuck” Karen of Carle Place is just as much a victim of September 11 as anybody who died on that date. Karen, a member of the FDNY, died in 2015 as a result of cancer officially linked to his recovery work on the toxic pile.

Carle Place American Legion Post No. 1718 Commander Al Piscitelli began the annual commemoration on the 20th anniversary by asking for a moment of silence in memory of Charles. His widow Tina and sons Charles and Dominic were on hand.

After giving a summary of September 11 and its aftermath, Piscitelli noted that there’s a state-of-the-art DNA technology that the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office is using to determine more than 1,000 unidentified remains.

Harold Prummell, left, and Ted Rykowski salute the flag. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

“This will take place possibly before the end of the year,” the commander said. “There are those who want to find out about their family members and those who do not. It’s their choice when the time comes.”

After the Pledge of Allegiance and the playing of an instrumental National Anthem, Father Sean Wallace from Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church of Carle Place gave the opening prayer.

“God of Peace, bring peace to our violent world, peace in the hearts of all men and women, and peace among the nations of the earth,” the pastor intoned. “Turn to the way of love those whose hearts and minds are consumed with hatred. God of all understanding, we seek the light and guidance as we confront once again the terrible events of September 11th. Comfort and console us. Strengthen us in hope. Give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reigns among nations and in the hearts of all.”

He also offered prayers “for those who continue to suffer body, mind and spirit from the events of September 11th.”

John Heslin gave his usual emotional speech urging love and understanding, and remembering Glen Pettit, whose photo he holds. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient Michael Giamboni said that many find solace in 9/11 memorial quotes from presidents, which he recited:

“On the worst day of American history, we saw some of the bravest acts in America’s history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11 and here at this hallowed place we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.” —President George W Bush

“The smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness is a way to honor those we lost and the way to reclaim the spirit of unity that followed 9/11.” —President Barack Obama.

“With almost no time to decide, they [your loved ones] gave the entire country an incalculable gift. They saved the capitol from attack. They saved God knows how many lives. They saved the terrorists from claiming the symbolic victory of smashing the center of American government. And they did it as citizens. They allowed us to survive as a country that could fight terror and still maintain liberty and still welcome people from all over the world from every religion and race and culture as long as they shared our values. Because ­ordinary people given no time at all to decide did the right thing.” —William J. Clinton

Giamboni continued, “Twenty years ago, on September 10, 246 people went to sleep in preparation for their next morning’s flights, 2,606 people went to sleep in preparation for work in the morning. Three hundred and forty-three firefighters went to sleep in preparation for their morning shift. Sixty police officers went to sleep in preparation for morning Patrol. Eight paramedics went to sleep in preparation for the morning shift. None of them saw past 10 a.m. September 11th 2001. In one single moment life will never be the same. As you live and enjoy breath, the breaths you take today and tonight before you go to sleep, in preparation for your life tomorrow, kiss the ones you love, snuggle a little tighter and never take one second of your life for granted. God bless you and God bless America.”

Glen Pettit, WTC victim, was remembered by Carle Place resident John Heslin. (Photo from New York Police Department via New York Times)

John Heslin, a retired NYPD officer, was a regular at the annual ceremony in NYC for the first 16 years before ill health necessitated forced him to stick closer to home. He has attended and spoken at every Legion commemoration since 2018. He noted that he and his wife of 57 years, Barbara, have been residents of the hamlet for more than 50 years.

“Twenty years ago, a day like today, in this one square mile of Carle Place everyone woke up and we all looked west and what did we see? Nothing but black smoke coming out of Manhattan. The Twin Towers had fallen and thousands of people were killed that day, murdered,” he began.

As usual, he carried a picture of Glen Pettit, son of his best friend Jack, whom he encouraged to join the NYPD. Glen was a police videographer who was filming the rescue efforts when he was killed at the towers at the age of 30. He was posthumously award the NYPD Medal of Honor and then-Commissioner Ray Kelly joined the family in renaming the corner near the police academy after Pettit, whose remains were found in December 2001.

Heslin noted that his father was a city policeman in the 1930s and wore badge No. 3815. John joined the department in 1965 and spent 28 years there. He also wore the same badge number. His nephew Glen asked for the same number, and according to Heslin, “the department was proud to give them the shield.”

Glen’s brother Neal, Heslin’s godson, joined the MTA police K-9 unit and the agency gave him a special shield with the same number.

“[Glen joined] the police department on December 8, 1997, not knowing that in four years he’d be murdered at World Trade Center,” said Hesling, and mentioned the last photo taken of Pettit, it showed him entering one of the towers with a camera on his shoulder and a fireman running next to him with a hose.

Bernie Brooks, front, and Tom Genovese, next to him, led the singing of “God Bless America.” At left is Michael Giamboni, who also offered words. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

“People are still dying,” he said, referring to the illnesses from the Ground Zero pile. “We owe it to them to remember their names, and we will not forget them, will never forget them. Don’t forget the men, women and children who died, and today keep them in your thoughts. Always remember the wonderful firefighters, first responders, nurses doctors keep them in your hearts and be nice to [them]. God bless everyone in Carle Place. God bless our square mile of property here, and God bless America and God bless all of you for coming out today (applause). Love the one you’re with. Thank you, I love you all.”

After Father Wallace gave his closing prayer, all joined in singing “God Bless America.”

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Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers.

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