As it has done every year since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers, the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Astoria gathered to cling to God for strength and to honor the victims, survivors and responders.
Light rain set the tone for the somber ceremony that took place just outside at 8:30 in the morning on Sunday, Sept. 9. Mourners watched in silence as the flag fluttered as it was raised showing the strength and unity of the United States of America.
“Lord, we commend to your eternal mercy the numerous innocent victims,” Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese, pastor, prayed. “We ask for consolation and comfort for their families and relatives, burdened by pain… We implore perseverance for all people of goodwill continuing on the paths of justice and peace.”
At 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center, all fell silent.
After the outdoor prayer service concluded with “God Bless America,” all walked to the church for Mass.
“The Mass is the most important aspect of the remembrance,” said Mario Massa, coordinator of the memorial service for the Knights of Columbus Council No. 1149.
Massa said the parish commemorates the anniversary on the Sunday closest to Sept. 11 to afford the people who wish to commemorate the actual anniversary at ground zero a chance to celebrate with their parish family.
Myriam Salmon was grateful for the opportunity to attend the ceremony because she was not able to attend the Manhattan ceremony as she has done in the past. Salmon, who worked near the towers at the time they were struck, said it is important to formally recognize the tragic day. “It’s still in our hearts,” she said.
A Matter of Duty
Cosmo Radelicki said it was a matter of duty. The tragedies must be remembered and the victims honored.
After the procession to the Mass, the entire congregation observed a moment of silence at 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hit the Twin Towers.
After the moment of silence, Msgr. Ferrarese took the opportunity to remember Michael Depietro.
Depietro, a graduate of Immaculate Conception School, died at 63 years old from a major heart attack and other health complications.
As a heavy equipment operator, he worked in the clean up and rebuilding process of the World Trade Center from that fateful day in September through February 2012, often for 12 hours shifts.
His brother Paul, who attended the service, said Michael, even when he suffered painfully in the hospital, never regretted his decision and commitment to the clean up and rebuilding effort.
“It was important to him,” Paul said. “He wanted to help.”