From end to end, the front lawn of Seaford High School was filled on the evening of Sept. 11 for the 22nd annual Memorial Candle Lighting Ceremony to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The ceremony was hosted by the Seaford 9/11 Memorial Committee in partnership with the school district.
An expansive field of American flags transitioned to the Seaford High School band and dozens of firefighters from Seaford, Wantagh and Freeport. Families of the five Seaford High School graduates who died in the attacks – Timothy Haskell, Thomas Haskell, John Perry, Robert Sliwak and Michael Wittenstein – lined the long, rounded concrete bench at the foot of the memorial plaza. Hundreds of chairs were occupied by the Seaford Board of Education, administrators, teachers, clergy members, elected officials, leaders of community organizations, alumni and local residents.
The main walkway featured the Nassau County Police Pipe and Drum band, and the next section of grass was filled with students in their Seaford jerseys, youth sports attire or scouting uniforms. With more than 1,000 people in attendance, Seaford has continued to host one of the biggest 9/11 memorial ceremonies on Long Island each year.
Superintendent Dr. Adele Pecora led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Seaford band students played the National Anthem.
“This remembrance ceremony epitomizes Seaford pride,” Dr. Pecora said.
Former Congressman Peter King, who still calls Seaford his home, expressed his gratitude that the community has continued to show up in great numbers to honor those whose lives were lost on 9/11. He called on all Americans to recommit themselves to the unity and patriotic spirit that was so strong in the aftermath of the attacks.
Seaford High School student council co-adviser Shari Raduazzo spoke about the Patriot Award, which has been presented to 112 Seaford High School graduates since 2002, for demonstrating service, character and commitment. She, along with past recipients Jillian Padavan (2018) and Gianna Cesario (2021), presented Dr. Pecora with a $2,000
donation for the Seaford High School Class of 2024 to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. They also gave her hundreds of community service pledges from students, staff and community residents.
Retired teacher and master of ceremonies Steve Bongiovi said that this year’s ceremony marked the 20th anniversary of the first candle lighting service in front of Seaford High School. The 9/11 memorial was dedicated in November 2002, and has been expanded since with artifacts from the World Trade Center and a survivor tree cutting.
Kenneth Haskell, president of the 9/11 Memorial Committee and brother of Thomas and Timothy, said that while the service is a painful reminder of those they lost, it is an important way of keeping their memories alive.
“All of these people had a name, a story and somebody who loved them,” he said.
Members of the crowd lit their candles during a musical tribute by FDNY firefighter Jeremy Riddle and the Seaford High School Honors Chorale. Bells tolled for the five Seaford High School graduates, all 9/11 victims and other special intentions. The Pipe and Drum band played “Amazing Grace” and the ceremony concluded with the chorus singing “God Bless America.”
–Submitted by the Seaford School District