By Sophia Ricco
A street dedication ceremony was held in Huntington to honor NYPD Officer Mark J. Natale who recently died from 9/11-related brain cancer.
The ceremony took place on Iceland Drive on Sept. 14, which would have been Natale’s 56th birthday. Natale will be remembered for his service during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, where he helped people fleeing across bridges to Brooklyn and onto ferries to New Jersey. The days after 9/11, Natale stood guard at the gates around Ground Zero.
“Friends and former colleagues contributed pieces of police uniform apparel so that retired Officer Natale would be buried in dress uniform; the South Huntington School District lowered flags to half-staff district-wide, issued a service award posthumously and inducted Mark, a district employee during his retirement from the NYPD, into their Hall of Fame,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said. “Comments came pouring in on the Town’s social media channels upon hearing news of this street dedication, with beautiful praise for Mark as a wonderful person, a gentleman, and words of comfort for the Natale family.”
The ceremony began with the presentation of the colors by the NYPD Honor Guard. NYPD Police Officer Makiah Brown sang the National Anthem, and an invocation was delivered by NYPD Chaplain Deputy Chief Monsignor David Cassato. Natale’s family, friends and colleagues were in attendance along with elected officials, and a contingent from the 94th Precinct in Brooklyn where Natale worked.
“NYPD Officer Mark J. Natale represents the best of humanity on a day we witnessed the worst. He is a hero, sacrificing his life protecting strangers. For the family, no words can ease their pain but we want them to know through this small gesture that they have the unending support of all of us,” State Senator Carl Marcellino said.
Officer Natale lost his battle to cancer on May 4, 2018 at home in Huntington. His cancer was a result of exposure at Ground Zero following the terror attacks.
“As we mark the 17th anniversary of the horrific events of September 11, 2001, it is important to continue to recall not only those who perished on that day, but also to remember the uniformed and non-uniformed responders who answered the call to help. These individuals assisted in rescue and recovery efforts in the days, weeks and months that followed and, sadly as a result, many suffered from 9/11 cancers and other illnesses and lost their lives,” Legislator Tom Donnelly said.
More than 70,000 first responders and survivors are currently enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program, which was established by the CDC to monitor and provide health care to those exposed to toxic dust and smoke at Ground Zero. The program reports nearly 10,000 people have suffered cancers caused by inhalation of toxic dust and smoke at Ground Zero.
“9/11, as we are reminded more and more each day, is the tragedy that keeps on taking,” Councilwoman Joan Cergol said. “We share in the Natale family’s grief and hope they will take comfort and pride each time they pass this street sign that is our way of making sure Mark’s service, heroism and sacrifice is held high for all to know and never be forgotten.”
Natale’s widow, Mayra Natale was supported by her children Dominick, Catherine and Lauren and Natale’s sisters Denise Pileggi and Debra Diem. She thanked those who brought this dedication to fruition and those who were in attendance to show their respect.
“The words expressed by his wife Mayra, captured Mark’s service and heroism. His courageous battle serves as inspiration to those heroes who continue to struggle with 9/11 related illnesses every day” Legislator Spencer said. “The awareness that Mark has brought to this issue will help ensure that our heroes receive the best possible care in the future.”