FDNY FFs help reopen Staten Island 9/11 Tribute and Educational Center
"Together we helped fulfill our promise to never forget, and we are looking forward to keeping this going for many years to come," said Capt. Brian Minardo
By Carol Ann Benanti
Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The Staten Island 9/11 Tribute and Educational Center is now officially reopened. It had been closed due to the combined impacts of the pandemic and staffing.
"In the months following the 9/11 attacks it became clear to me that preserving the stories, memories, and tangible artifacts from that day was of the utmost importance, which is why together with then-Congressman Fossella, I proudly funded this center," said District Attorney Michael McMahon, referring to his days in the City Council.
"So to return here for the proud reopening alongside 9/11 heroes and so many friends and neighbors brings me tremendous joy, and I have the utmost gratitude for all who worked to restore this place and ensure it will remain open for future generations."
Joining McMahon and Borough President Vito Fossella were scores of family and friends of those lost on 9/11, in the years that followed due to 9/11-related illness, and dozens of FDNY personnel, many of them 9/11 first responders.
Among the guests were FDNY Staten Island Borough Commander and Assistant Chief Kevin Woods, former FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano, who bore much of the burden of rebuilding the FDNY after the attacks, and Capt. Brian Minardo and Capt. Rob Widener.
Minardo noted: "Sunday was a great day in that it gave us another opportunity to continue to fulfill our promise to never forget. We are very grateful to all who attended the reopening ceremony, but we are most grateful to the family members of those we lost on 9/11/01 — the people who the tribute is dedicated to — for attending. We hope that they and all Staten Islanders once again see the Staten Island World Trade Center Educational Tribute as a place to visit, to reflect, and to heal."
He added, "We also hope that all Staten Islanders, especially parents and teachers, will now use the tribute as a tool to educate students and children on what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, so that our promise to never forget goes on for generations to come. A big thank you to all who helped get this going in 2003, and all those who worked so hard to get the tribute reopened today."
Minardo and Widener worked with Larry Anderson and Executive Director Jessica Vodoor Baker of Snug Harbor to raise funds and organize volunteers to rehabilitate the center.
Minardo went on to explain Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden has been extremely supportive and happy to have the tribute reopened. In 2003 everything was done on a handshake, but they felt it was better to sign an agreement. Attorney, James Thomson of the Thomson firm stepped up and did the necessary paperwork in order to form a not-for-profit and accountant Jen Manzella of Johnson and Manzella handled all the necessary accounting.
He added, though they didn't have a dollar to spend, one call to Frank Siller of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and their insurance was paid for an entire year — upfront.
When they needed to fund supplies and pay for their reopening ceremony and reception, one call from Firefighter Jo Jo Esposito and Massimo DiDonna of the Firefighter Carl Bini Memorial Fund and they had the resources they needed to reopen the tribute.
The surrounding landscaping was done by Firefighter Anthony Gagliardi, with the help of other volunteers, including Boy Scout Troop 77.
"It was a true volunteer community effort from start to finish," Minardo continued. "Together we helped fulfill our promise to never forget and we are looking forward to keeping this going for many years to come."
"This is a truly wonderful occasion, and this gathering and the center are a testament to the unending gratitude of Staten Islanders to all the first responders who rushed toward the danger on that terrible day" said Fossella. "We will never forget their sacrifice, and working with Snug Harbor and the FDNY will ensure that our young people know the story of Sept. 11, 2001 and the recovery efforts that followed."
The event closed with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by Dr. Kerry Kelly, a Staten Islander who served as the FDNY Chief Medical Officer on Sept. 11, 2001, and continues to serve the health of first responders suffering from illnesses related to their service at Ground Zero.
The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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