It has been nearly two years since that September day that changed all of our lives.
Next Thursday will be remembered throughout this city and throughout the world as the day that Moslem terrorists destroyed thousands of American lives as well as three symbols of American society.
While few in New York City have forgotten that day, or where they were when they heard the news, for many in more remote parts of the nation, the memory of that disastrous day has begun to fade.
Former Rockaway resident Adele Roberts, who was once a columnist for The Wave a number of years ago, and whose son still lives on the peninsula, does not want that to happen.
Right after September 11, 2001, Roberts and Barbara Baker sat down to collect the stories of those who were impacted by that day’s events.
That collection was put into a book that the authors called, "September 11, 2001 Remembered: Where You Were, How You Felt?"
It was an ambitious undertaking, collecting remberances from all across the nation, but they believed that it was something that they just had to do to memorialize those who died in the attack.
"Those terrorists wanted not only to kill as many of our citizens as they could," Roberts says in the introduction. "They wanted mostly to kill our spirit and our freedom. This book is about us all. Where we were when it happened and what we were thinking about on that day that will always be remembered in not only our hearts, but in our souls."
What follows are 200 pages of remembrances, poems, pictures (most of them taken by Rockaway resident Benjamin Paolino), and memorials, all in the first person and all in the authentic voice of the person who wrote the article.
Some of the articles were written by people far from the action, others by people who escaped the buildings before they fell, still others by those who watched in horror from surrounding buildings.
All reflect the anger and the pain of that day.
The book became very popular and now resides in many local libraries. For Roberts, however, it was not enough.
The former Rockaway resident, who now lives in Bloomingdale, Ohio, had a feeling that many people who live in other areas of America were pushing that day from their memories.
"It has now been two years since that fateful day of September 11, 2001," she writes. "Have we become complacent since that day? Have we gone on with our own lives? Have we forgotten September 11?"
To answer those questions, Roberts, alone this time, wrote a companion piece to her first book. This one is called, "September 11, 2001 Remembered: Have We forgotten?"
The second book once again contains pictures and remembrances of September 11. Added to the new work, however, are written statements of how the event impacted the writers and what that terrible day meant to each of them.
The first book sold for $16.95, but is now on sale through the author for $12.95. The second book sells for $12.95 as well. You can get both books, autographed by the author, for $24.95 plus shipping. One-half of the receipts earned by the sale of the books will go to the FDNY’s "Bravest Fund." The other half, according to the author, goes to printing the books.
"I am not trying to make anything on these books," she says. "I want to do it as a memorial to those who died on September 11."
The books are well worth having in your September 11, 2001 library or in saving for your grandchildren so that they can get an idea of what that day was like for Americans throughout the nation.
Everybody has a remembrance of September 11 and the weeks and months following that attack.
I remember getting to The Wave office that morning, turning on the police scanner and hearing a harried ESU officer tell central dispatch that an aircraft had hit the World Trade Center, that it looked like a terrorist attack and to get aviation to protect other sites, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building.
I remember my police sergeant son calling me, asking me to come and watch my grandson so he could get to the scene. I remember joining hundreds of other Rockaway residents watching the smoke pour from the already-doomed buildings across the bay after the second plane hit.
I remember interviewing residents about their feelings that day outside the subway station on Beach 116 Street, with the smoke rising in the background. The universal reaction was shock and anger.
I remember the days after, the personal loss. Steve Russell, whose sister-in-law was a friend from the school system. Richie Allen, who was in my son’s camp group at the Hartman Y camp. Henry Miller, the new husband of my wife’s childhood Arverne friend.
The boys from the beach who died that day, particularly the firefighters who rushed into the buildings to save the trapped workers, will never be forgotten. In fact, they will be memorialized twice in Rockaway’s new Tribute Park - once on the glass cupola that will memorialize the Rockaway residents who died and again on the firefighter’s memorial on the site.
Nobody who was alive that day will forget, just as those who were alive on December 7, 1941 will remember to their death where they were the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.
These books include those kinds of memories.
Those interested in purchasing the books should contact the author at Dr. Adele Roberts, c/o Tramlin Publishing, P.O. Box 169, Richmond, Ohio, 43944. The author can also be contacted by Email at email@example.com.
At the same time, Rockaway is pursuing its own remembrance of the attack on the World Trade Center.
While the Tribute Park on Beach 116 Street and Beach Channel Drive will not be ready for next week’s anniversary, work has been proceeding on schedule. The concrete wall adjoining Duane Reade was poured last week and a flagpole will soon be in evidence.
A large boulder that will one day be the memorial to all of the firefighters lost on September 11 has been placed on site and work will soon begin by the firefighter’s union in making that boulder into a suitable memorial to their memory.
It seems that Rockaway will be the only place in the nation where all of the firefighters are memorialized in one place.
Also on that site, of course, will be the glass cupola, designed by local artist Patrick Clark, which will honor those Rockaway residents who died in the attack.
September 11 will always be a tough day for those who lost loved ones as well as the rest of the nation. As time goes by, memories will begin to fade and only those who faced a great loss on that day will remember. That is the way life proceeds.
We hope that we will never forget those who died and what they meant to all of us on the Rockaway peninsula. That is the least we can do.