The 9/11 Responders Remembered memorial wall was unveiled Saturday morning at Gibbs Pond Road and Smithtown Boulevard. Many felt, for the first time, they finally had fitting tribute honoring their loved ones on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
"It means the world to me to see the wall up," said Glen Klein, sergeant at arms of the 9/11 Responders Remembered nonprofit. "There has not been any place for those who lost a responder after 9/11 to go."
Klein, a retired New York police officer and 9/11 responder, has lost five friends since the attacks due to 9/11 related illnesses. Their names will be engraved on the memorial.
Three sections of black granite wall, standing 6-foot tall, mark the beginnings of the memorial park envisioned by the nonprofit organization. The center piece bears the inscription "9/11 Responders Remembered and a quote from Abraham Lincoln that read " Any Nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure." It was blessed by Rev. Bill Minson during the Saturday's ceremony.
"The wall is beautiful, and will be so much more beautiful when it is fully completed," said 9/11 responder widow Eileen Ryan, a Hauppauge resident.
She attended the emotional ceremony with her children, including her 11-year-old daughter Casey who said she hopes to visit the memorial often. It become a place where the mother-daughter can talk about Michael Ryan, a New York Police detective who died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2007.
"That's what's nice about it. It's here in our community," Eileen Ryan said. "Michael is on a lot of walls - in Albany, in Battery Park - but it's a trip to get there."
The names of more than 900 first responders who have died of 9/11 related illnesses have yet to be engraved on the wall. The park also has more cement work and landscaping before it is finished.
However, John Feal, Nesconset resident and founder of the FealGood Foundation warned the memorial will not be complete for years to come, as space has been left to keep adding names to the wall.
"Trees will be added,landscaping will be added and so will names. Throughout the years and history of this park, we will keep adding names," Feal said.
The children of late 9/11 first responders gathered to lay a wreath at the wall, consoling one with hugs. Their family members and U.S. Marines laid flowers in memory of those who continue to die as result of the 9/11 attacks, 10 years later.