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9/11 Memorial Park Could Honor Heidi Behr, Other Hero First Responders

The proposed Sound Avenue memorial park continues to take shape.

The vision for a proposed 9/11 memorial park on Sound Avenue could also blossom to include and honor local first responders who have lost their lives trying valiantly to save others.

Reeves Park resident on Sound Avenue was born after he lost his brother, Thomas Kelly, 38, a New York City firefighter and one of seven members of Engine 219, Ladder 105 who died tragically on September 11 after the terrorist attacks, said he would like to dedicate a section of the park to first responders who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

To start, Kelly would like to create a memorial at the park to and Riverhead EMT who died in a tragic Aquebogue ambulance crash in 2005 that also took the life of first responder William Anthony Stone.

Behr left behind her 15-month-old son, Jared, who is severely disabled, with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and also legally blind. Behr's little boy, now eight years old, lives with her parents, whose indomitable strength, courage, and fierce love for their grandson honors their daughter's memory.

Kelly said the idea for paying tribute to first responders at the memorial park came recently, after the wake and funeral for his Reeves Park friend , who died last Friday in a tragic car accident on Sound Avenue.

After the service, Kelly said he went fishing with his longtime friend Eric Biegler, the president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association. "I was thinking out loud about the memorial park -- what it could be, and represent," Kelly said.

One thought he had, Kelly said, was to dedicate a portion of the park to local first responders who have died; he would like to begin, Kelly said, with a memorial to Behr, a volunteer with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corp, "who was tragically killed responding on a call." 

As far as the men could discern, Kelly said, no memorial or dedication exists in Riverhead in Behr's honor; he would like to discuss the idea further with local government officials and residents.

The wish to honor first responders at the 9/11 memorial park is one Kelly shares with his mother and father, Sue and Emmet, and with sister Jean and brother Jim, he added. "We all want this to work out well."

And, Kelly said, plans are moving forward as the dream for the 9/11 memorial park evolves into reality. 

Last month, the Suffolk County Parks Trustees approved the plan for the memorial park. "The good news is that it passed right through when they met out in Montauk," Kelly said. "And, with the full support of the town and community, this deal should be done after a few more steps. As of now, we are in a good place."

In September, Lisa Keys, legislative aide for Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine, said a tentative timeline has been set for county acquistion of the 4.1 acre parcel, located at the corner of Sound Avenue and Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive/Park Road. 

Next steps involve an authorizing resolution for acquisition of the parcel, which is expected to be introduced on Oct. 9, and reviewed by the county's environmental, or EPA, committee on Oct. 29.

Finally, the resolution is slated to be brought before the full Suffolk County Legislature on Nov. 20.

Following legislative approval, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone would sign the resolution and next, the county's real estate division would proceed with ordering the survey, completing the survey, completing title work, signing vouchers, ordering checks and setting a closing date.

Keys said if closing does not take place by the end of 2012, it is expected to happen in January. The 9/11 memorial park, should "be here by next year," Keys said.

The memorial garden will include butterfly bushes, paths, and benches for quiet reflection, Kelly said. In addition, the stone and memorial that now stand would be moved back to sit near a large tree, much like the "tree of life" that stands at Ground Zero at the new memorial. 

Bob Kelly October 05, 2012 at 01:54 AM
So this really is ano brainer here.. Its the right thing to do,, Heidi and her family deserve at least this much. This girl was doing her job that Im sure she loved.. and was taken from this world far to young. By all aounts her family are pillars of strength, and her son is special person indeed. Its a shame that we dont have something in her honor yet,, but this is the least that we as acommunity can do to help honor and remember one of our own,, thank you for your well constructed pieceon this..with a little help we can all see this through...
Lisa Finn October 05, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Thank you, Bob, for doing this for Heidi and so many others. . . .
RonPon October 06, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Wonderful idea! On the shoulders of a giant.... His name is Bob Kelly! Kudos and blessings to my dear friend who truly has the heart of a giant!

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