Anthony Corte went for his father, two uncles and 26 friends.
All of them responded to the burning World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. None of them came back.
"Just don't forget," Corte said under a scorching Saturday sun at Tampa Fire Rescue's Station No. 15.
He was there to join in a ceremony commemorating the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. "Keep the spirit and the patriotism we had that day in our hearts," he said.
In what was one of several events around the region, Corte, 37, of Bloomingdale and nearly 60 other former and current law enforcement and military members paid homage to a flag hoisted atop a fire truck.
The flag had been flown over ground zero in New York City by an organization called the Post 911 Foundation.
They observed a moment of silence to remember the lives lost on Sept. 11. They called it Patriot Day.
Several motorcycle rides and events were held Saturday by groups such as AMVETS Post 44 in Brandon and the Post 911 Foundation.
In a noon ceremony, a foundation member presented the flag atop Fire Truck 15 to Mayor Pam Iorio at the Tampa Convention Center.
The presentation was part of the national Follow the Flag campaign meant to reignite the spirit of patriotism.
Accepting the flag on behalf of the city, Iorio said she was proud of all the first responders, not just the ones in New York on Sept. 11, but also those in Tampa. The latter, she said, would act just as bravely in times of crisis.
"And that's why on 9/11 we should never forget," she said. "The title we cherish the most is that of American citizens."
At the Convention Center ceremony, Mark Kijas, 54, who works as a security consultant, said he had already attended three commemorative events that morning.
"I'll do it until I drop," he said.
Kijas, who was about 3 miles from the north tower when it was hit by a hijacked plane on Sept. 11, 2001, said he and many other civilians rushed to the scene to help.
"I never though I would run down there," said Kijas, who was a security director at Oxygen Media, a women's cable network, at the time. "I just did it. You get caught up in the moment and your emotion takes over. We just went down there to do what we could."
Kijas said he knew 42 people—police officers, firefighters, security personnel and civilians — who died as the towers tumbled.
Now is the time, he said, for the country to overcome political and religious barriers to unite as Americans.
"People are forgetting what's important," he said.
Nandini Jayakrishna can be reached at (813) 661-2441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.