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POINT LOOKOUT, Long Island — It was a perfect beach morning at Point Lookout on this Sept.11th, but 20 years ago — on another brilliant, sunny day — Point Lookout was a gathering place for Long Islanders who witnessed a national tragedy.

“They looked westward, toward Manhattan, in horror,” said Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin who recalled stunned families looking at the crippled Twin Towers, which had been hit by two planes commandeered by terrorists. 

Five hundred Long Islanders were among the nearly 3,000 souls who were lost that day.

Every year since, Point Lookout has drawn relatives and friends of the dead, many of them police and fire families, as well as survivors.  A memorial was built there in 2017, with a 30-foot beam recovered from 1 World Trade Center serving as the centerpiece.

This year, the ceremony drew record crowds at the beachside service.

It was there that PIX11 met married couple Maryann and Pat Antonacci. Pat is a retired NYPD sergeant who was working downtown that day.

“My husband was there from beginning to end,” Maryann Antonacci said, as her voice broke with emotion. 

Pat explained:

“I was actually standing by Church and Maiden Lane [in Manhattan] when the second plane came around and hit the South Tower,” Pat Antonacci, now retired, said.

“We didn’t find out until 2 or 3 a.m. if he was dead or alive,” Maryann Antonacci recalled. “And when he walked through the door, his body was steaming. He had smoke coming off his body, and his boots were ripped wide open.”

Barbara Hetzel of Garden City came early to see the sunrise with her younger son, Daniel.

Her oldest, Thomas, was an FDNY firefighter with Ladder 13 in Manhattan, one of the “Yorkville Nine” who never returned to the firehouse on E. 85th Street.

Daniel Hetzel showed us a photo of Thomas and him as adolescents in the 1970s, enjoying a trip on the Staten Island ferry in New York Harbor, with the Twin Towers standing tall in the background.

“It’s so ironic,” Barbara Hetzel said about the photo.  “There’s so much happiness in life, and there’s so much sadness.”

Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, who was sworn in Thursday as the second in command to new Gov. Kathy Hochul, recalled his upbringing in Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens, and noted he was starting business school 20 years ago when terrorists attacked the towers.

“It’s one of the first times I realized I’m part of an entire, United States family,” Benjamin said.