NEW YORK — All across the city, New Yorkers celebrated a sweltering Memorial Day, paying tribute to fallen soldiers at the Intrepid and taking refuge from the heat on the shore from City Island to Coney Island.
Many in the city flocked to the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum to mark honor the sacrifices that the military has made for the country.
Joseph Cronzilhat, 1st Vice President of French War Veterans, waited outside the Intrepid museum with a group of French veterans who fought in Algeria in the late 1950s before coming to the U.S. in 1958.
“We come here to honor the fallen. So many Americans died during the war,” said Cronzilhat, 79, who now works in the restaurant business. “We remember those who made their ultimate sacrifice.”
Philip Reilly, a veteran during the Korean War, handed out red flowers made of cloth to visitors at the Intrepid.
"The Memorial Day is for all that couldn't come back," said Reilly, 75. "We come here to remind people of the sacrifice. People usually have short memories."
Amid the remembrance under sunny skies, the high temperature soared to a balmy 88 degrees.
“The heat is just like in Texas,” said RJ Sabol, 40, who brought his 6-year-old son to New York for Fleet Week. “It’s tough.”
“He’s never been to this kind of event, so I just tried to take him here,” added Sabol. “He just loves the ships and vessels.”
In Coney Island, crowds of beachgoers basked in bathing suits and hopped into the still-frigid water to keep cool in the hot sun.
"I'm just glad the weather's good for now. Last time, by the time I got to the beach, the sun was blocked. I look forward to spending the entire day out here," said Rick Moser, 32, of Little Italy.
Molly Mozer, 25, of Jersey City, said she was "feeling good, just happy to be outside."
"It's a beautiful day," she added.
And Nathan Stanton, 25, of Prospect Heights, said that he appreciated the sacrifice the troops made.
"It's bittersweet, isn't it? he said. "I'm thankful to all the people who died for us to get this."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined a procession at the Upper West Side's Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument on Riverside Drive at 89th Street, in honor of Iraq and Afghan veterans.
"Since September 11, 2001, you should know that 91 New Yorkers gave their lives to preserve the freedoms and values that made us a target for terrorism. As we honor their memory and the memories of our fallen heroes, we'll keep working to make New York City a place they would be proud of," Bloomberg said.
"This holiday should remind us of the incredible debt that we owe every American who serves in our armed forces. They have not only earned our respect but our gratitude, and our support as well," he added. "This year we will do even more to help our heroes find jobs, homes and get the services they need."
Throgs Neck residents Edith and Bob Rodriguez went to City Island on Memorial Day to enjoy the sunshine and take a walk from one end of the mile-long island to the other.
"We come to City Island on most weekends," said Edith Rodriguez, the parish secretary of a church in Mount Vernon. "It's nice and sleepy. It really has that New England flavor to it."
The couple said they like the sound of church bells at the Trinity Methodist Church on City Island Avenue, which sent the sounds of "The Battle of the Hymn of the Republic" and "America," through the streets.
"We like that especially," Rodriguez said, "It sounds so beautiful."
During the City Island Memorial Day Parade, boy scouts from Troop 211 and cub scouts from Pack 211 took a moment to remember members of their community who had made sacrifices by serving their country.
"We get to honor our troops," said City Island resident Michael Bellocchio, 13, who goes to school on the island's P.S. 175.
"We also get to show off our colors to the community, and show all that we've done for them."
For Lori Lubelli, a City Island mother of six, the parade is a decades-long family tradition, to honor everyone from her grandfather, who served in Korea, to her smallest son, who is marching with his Little League team.
"I do the parade every year for my grandfather," Lubelli said. "And now this year I'm here for my son. We have a lot to be proud of."