Queens Remembers One Tragedy While Consumed by Another: 9/11 Amidst a Global Pandemic

Photo from Fuel Stoc

As the city marks 19 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center, Queens elected officials have been tasked with balancing the tragedy that September 11th represents against the backdrop of a global coronavirus pandemic that continues to kill New Yorkers.

Many officials were forced to release statements in lieu of traditional gatherings because of pandemic restrictions on large gatherings, and fears of spreading the virus.

In a statement made on Twitter, State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Jackson Heights, Corona, Astoria, Woodside, Elmhurst, East Elmhurst) tied both the tragedy of the day, together with the ongoing health crisis facing the city.

“In 2001, we lost 3K our of neighbors and first responders. Today in 2020, we mourn the additional deaths of 24K New Yorkers in areas hardest hit by #COVID19,” Ramos wrote. “9/11 remembrance must be honored in the form of justice for victims—serving throughout crisis and beyond. #NeverForget”

According to the Department of Health, 23,739 city residents are believed to have died from COVID-19, nearly eight times the total believed to have been killed on 9/11.

Members of the city council from Queens have also remarked about how today is different from other years. Councilmember and Democratic nominee for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards (D-Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens) said the pandemic has recast the meaning of the day.

Officers stand outside of the 108th Precinct and give tribute to those lost on 9/11. (Photo from 108th Precinct Facebook page)

“We are reminded of how important it is to share our cherished memories and stories that forge our connection to others,” he said. “In the wake of tumultuous tragedies, we must support each other in ways that give us hope and courage. My prayers are always with the families devastated by the attacks and virus who claimed the lives of so many. Our fallen will never be forgotten.” 

Despite the restrictions on gatherings, many New Yorkers continued to hold small socially distant memorials to remember those lost 19 years ago.

In front of the NYPD’s 108th Precinct in Long Island City, dozens of masked, uniformed officers stood saluting during a tribute to the first responders who had been killed during the attacks.

Bayside Hills Civic Association is also planning an event at 7 p.m. on Friday to unveil a plaque inside a memorial garden at the corner of Horace Harding Expressway and Bell Blvd.

The plaque commemorates a second generation sapling which was grown from a pear tree that survived at Ground Zero.

Assemblymember Nily Roznic (D-Fresh Meadows) will be presenting the plaque, and organizers are requiring masks and social distancing.

Elected officials were also on hand at the official city ceremony at the site of the attacks in Lower Manhattan.

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-Astoria and Long Island City, parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan) appeared at the memorial walking with Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Joseph R. Biden, the Democratic nominee for president. Vice President Mike Pence also attended the event.

In a statement, Maloney encouraged survivors and first responders present during the attacks and recovery to enroll in the special healthcare program set up to provide them with ongoing medical care.

“As our nation battles COVID-19, I want to encourage every survivor and first responder to sign up for the World Trade Center Health Program so that they can get the care and monitoring they need and deserve,” she said. “These heroes and their families should also make sure they are signed up for the Victim Compensation Fund. These programs are the least we can provide as a grateful nation who pledged to ‘Never Forget.’”