A community gathers to remember
A candlelit labyrinth walk brought the community together.

Photo by Timothy Butler

A community gathers to remember


SAYVILLE—Last Friday evening, a crowd of residents gathered for the annual Sept. 11 Memorial Service at the Common Ground in Rotary Park. The service paid tribute to those who lost their lives 14 years ago at the hands of terrorism in an event that radically changed the course of history. The occasion marked the 10th anniversary of events in the community park, and served as a tribute to founding members, friends and supporters of the Common Ground. It also featured a variety of individual musicians and singing groups—including St. Ann’s Choir and the Twin Shores Chorus—and a candlelight labyrinth walk.

Common Ground president Barbara Fitzpatrick said that the idea for the organization dates back to a Rotary Club meeting just two days after the Sept. 11 attacks. She called it a place for “beauty, reflection and peace.”

“This evening’s ceremony is part of a living tapestry formed by many friends,” said Fitzpatrick. “It tells a story of sadness, hope and perseverance, which unite us in the past, present and future.”

Legislator Bill Lindsay III (8th District) was invited to offer some remarks about the significance of the Common Ground. 

“This is a place where we come to reflect and also a place where we come to celebrate,” said Lindsay. “We come here tonight to reflect as a community on the people that we lost 14 years ago… and how we’re still facing some of the same threats that we had 14 years ago, if not even more so.

“The name is so befitting,” continued Lindsay, whose father, the late William J. Lindsay, passed away exactly two years ago on Sept. 11, 2013. “It’s the common ground where everyone comes together. It doesn’t matter what your political beliefs are, your religious beliefs, your ethnicity, or your background. This is a place where everyone in the community can come together to laugh, cry, and share good times and bad.”

Sayville Chamber of Commerce member and community leader Pamela Raymond also came forward to speak about the role of the Common Ground and its origins. Over the years, the site has served as a stage for many chamber and school-sponsored events, as well as fitness/wellness gatherings such as yoga and Reiki.

“After 9/11, all of us knew someone who knew someone who is gone now, and [we decided] that we don’t have to put a piece of memorial medal in our community to remember what happened that day,” said Raymond. “What we needed to do was become a better community from something that somebody did to us that we didn’t deserve, and that’s what happened… I’m proud of us for taking something that was awful and turning it around… into a special place.”

Common Ground vice president and 9/11 Memorial Service chairperson Mary Novotny read a selection of poetry inspired by the tragedy and remarked on the now-popular slogan, “Never Forget.”

“Those words carry a lot of weight, and I know that no matter how hard I try, I will never forget the horrific images from that day,” said Novotny. “But most importantly, I will never forget the unity, from strangers helping strangers, to every car on the road having a flag, to songs sung about the heroes from that day. We were united in our grief and our resolve, and we were united as a country. So I hope we never forget that, and never forget to be kind to one another.”

Jordan Ramsaywak of the Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ Youth Group read a special prayer that encouraged us to refrain from using labels to separate each other.

“Erase the labels we use to bind our hearts and contain our fear,” said Ramsaywak. “Grant us the courage to find the common ground we share/ Our humanity, our longing, our hopes and our dreams/ I am and you are beyond labels now and forever.”

For more information on the Common Ground, getting involved, and upcoming events, visit www.thecommonground.com or call 459-6603.