POINT LOOKOUT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Long Island beach where people gathered and watched in horror as the distant World Trade Center towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001 is the site of the latest memorial to victims of the terror attacks.
The monument, built by the town of Hempstead near the beach in Point Lookout, features a twisted, 30-foot-tall beam of Trade Center steel, an elevated walkway and granite plaques engraved with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks.
A separate plaque has the names of 582 police officers, firefighters, construction workers, cleanup volunteers and others who spent time in the rubble of the World Trade Center in the days or months after the attacks and, years later, died of a variety of causes that they, their families or their doctors suspected were linked to toxic ash and smoke at the site. There will be room to add more names.
Hempstead officially dedicated the $1.3 million memorial at a service Monday, the 16th anniversary of the attacks.
Barbara Hetzel, who lost her firefighter son Thomas on that fateful day, broke down and began to cry as she sat in front of the new memorial.
“It’s a great loss, the pain is there, you just learn to hide it more,” she said, describing Thomas as a “special son, special father, brother.”
Patricia and her father came to the memorial to honor her brother Robert Sliwak who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald.
“The last time I was with my brother it was on this beach so when they decided to do it here it was perfect,” she said. “He was just fun to be around.”
In addition to the steel beam, planted like a flag, and the plaques with names, the memorial park includes a table inscribed with the Walt Whitman poem “On the Beach at Night.”
The east side of the park features a pear tree grown from a seedling from the so-called “Survivor Tree” that lived through the destruction at ground zero.
Another plaque will point in the direction of the rebuilt World Trade Center, visible 24 miles in the distance.
“Having it on the beach at Point Lookout, the same place where hundreds of people assembled in the wake of the terrorist attacks, makes it uniquely compelling,” town supervisor Anthony Santino said.
The memorial joins a short but growing list of similar memorials recognizing people who fell ill after participating in the rescue and recovery operation.
In May, officials at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum announced plans to set aside a commemorative space at the World Trade Center to honor rescue and recovery workers.
New York’s police and fire departments also have memorials for personnel who have died of illnesses since Sept. 11. A 9/11 memorial in Staten Island recently added a plaque with the names of residents there who have died of illnesses.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)