Sandy Hook victim Benjamin Wheeler’s name will live on forever next to the No. 7 train he loved to ride and the Sunnyside street where the world got its first look at him.
Ben, 6, originally from Sunnyside, was one of the 20 children who were killed in the gunfire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. On September 7, he was honored and celebrated during a ceremony to co-name the intersection of 41st Street and Queens Boulevard “Benjamin Wheeler Place.” Ben’s older brother, Nate, unveiled the sign.
“It’s really special that we rename this street ‘Benjamin Wheeler Place’ and the No. 7 train will go back and forth, back and forth and it will be a very beautiful thing,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “They moved to Connecticut but the love they left behind still is so incredibly strong in the community.”
Family, friends and local officials gathered wearing green, Ben’s favorite color, at the corner of 41st Street, where he lived with his parents and brother. His parents, Francine and David, lived in Sunnyside until Ben was seven months old when they decided to move to Newtown.
“We are so incredibly grateful for the chance to thank our former Sunnyside neighbors whom we are very, very lucky enough to still call friends for their love and for their support in the months immediately following last December,” said David. “You quite literally have kept us standing.”
In honor of Ben’s love for The Beatles, Congressmember Joseph Crowley sang “Here Comes the Sun” to the family.
“Nothing more fitting that we can do [today], than honor Benjamin and the entire Wheeler family by naming the street on which he spent his first day and first months, so that we will always remember the valuable contribution that they have made and their love for Sunnyside,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris.
Francine was one of the founding member of Sunnymoms, a collective of local parents who share recipes, baby sitter recommendations and parenting tips. In February, Sunnymoms organized a fundraiser and concert for the Wheeler family to honor Ben’s memory and raise money for the family.
“Ben was six, he had just learned how to tie his shoes, that was his major accomplishment but frankly he hadn’t really perfected that either,” said David. “The sign will show us where we can eventually go as people. It is up to us to make our schools, our malls, our offices, our parks, our street corners safer for children everywhere.”