Two Hauppauge widows are helping organize a fund raiser for a one-of-a-kind Sept. 11 memorial this Thursday.
The 9/11 Responders Remembered is holding a fund raiser to build a Nesconset memorial dedicated to Long Island's first responders who have died as result of Sept. 11 related illnesses at The Water Mill Inn in Smithtown on Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m. The nonprofit organization hopes to raise $15,000 to $20,000 towards a wall that will bear the names of police officers firefighters and civilians sickened at Ground Zero side by side.
"Right now there are many existing Sept. 11 memorials for people who died that day, there's one in front of the H. Lee Dennison building as well as one in Smithtown. They are all absolutely beautiful and well done. There is no existing memorial for first responders who have died since Sept. 11," said Greta Helmke, of Hauppauge.
Greta's husband, Robert Helmke, was a New York City police officer who responded on Sept.11 and worked at the Ground Zero recovery site that died of a rare colorectal cancer.
The 9/11 Responders Remembered Park committee consists of others with similar stories from sickened first responders to Hauppauge resident Eileen Ryan, who similarly lost her husband former NYPD detective and first Responder Michael Ryan.
The organization envisions a granite with over 900 names of Long Island's first responders who have died of Sept.11-related illnesses in silver at the northeast corner of Gibbs Pond Road and Smithtown Boulevard. The names will represent not only police officers and firefighters, but everyday civilians who have died after volunteering at Ground Zero.
Both Helmke and Ryan said they have spoken with many people not aware of the full scope, of how many first responders have become sick with serious and sometimes fatal illnesses following Sept. 11.
"I got involved in for all the civilians that came down on their own accord, gave their time – some not even getting paid - working down there as volunteers who got sick and died like my husband. If we can memorialize them, it would mean so much," Ryan said.
Helmke said the memorial strictly for first responders who have died after Sept. 11, 2001 of related illness, would be the first of its kind.
"It would be here in Nesconset. It would be nearby. I could visit it with my children would mean a lot to me and my children," she said. "Everyone I talk to feels the same way. "
Vincent Monaco, owner of Little Vincent's Pizza, will be honored at the fundraiser for donating the land. Also, John Feal of the Feal Good Foundation will be honored for his work with 9/11 responders and their families over the past 9 years.
The fund raiser will include dinner, live entertainment, raffles, a 50/50, sports memorabilia and a live auction by Star Benefit Auction. Former professional heavyweight boxer Gerry Cooney will make a special guest appearance.
Tickets to the event cost $125 each, or $1375 for a table of 12. Formal or business attire is suggested with cocktail hour beginning at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner and entertainment from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
To purchase a ticket, donate or request a name be considered for the wall, call 516-652-1255 or 631-428-6914.