Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

One Bayshore Patriot worries the "rah-rah'' is gone


Nine years ago, nearly 15,000 people were there. Five years ago, a president dropped by. Four years ago, war protesters began showing up.

But most Friday afternoons? The only people on the Bayshore Boulevard median are a half-dozen members of the Bayshore Patriots, the group of men and women who have waved American flags every week since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Bill Hamblin, 64, is one of the regulars. He almost never misses a Friday, which gets him thinking about what it looks like when a country finally moves on.

The other day, he was looking at old photographs of early Pearl Harbor memorial events.

"They were huge," he said. "And now?"

On a recent Friday, Hamblin was standing with his flag on the Bayshore median. Some cars honked. Hamblin waved and recalled another day, five years earlier, on that same spot.

"There was a guy with a gun up there," he said, pointing to the roof of a nearby condo. "And one on a boat out there. And there was the helicopter."

And then, he recalled, a long limousine pulled up to the curb.

"He stops right there," said Hamblin, "and he goes 'Well, hello Cousin Bill!' "

That was President George W. Bush's visit to the intersection. These days, Hamblin watches out for a lady in a Cadillac, who always stares straight ahead as she lays on the horn.

Started by three women in a South Tampa aerobics class, the Bayshore Patriots caught the attention — and earned the appreciation — of military personnel leaving MacDill Air Force Base, including then-Gen. Tommy Franks. ("Tommy mentioned us four times in his book," Hamblin said.)

The Patriots organized the one-year memorial ceremony, an event that brought out 15,000 people and a roster of guest speakers, including then Gov. Jeb Bush. It was one of the largest ceremonies in the United States that year.

The Patriots had an office, a checking account with money in it, a side mission that included throwing Thanksgiving dinners for the international coalition members stationed at MacDill.

None of that exists now. One reason is the economy. When the group sent out letters to past corporate sponsors of the Thanksgiving banquet, many of the cards came back undeliverable, Hamblin said.

And something else is at play.

"I'll be honest with you," he said. "The rah-rah is gone."

• • •

Hamblin, a 64-year-old retired Tampa cop, joined the Patriots soon after it formed. He grew up in New York City and knew the names of some of the first responders killed on Sept. 11.

He served during the Vietnam War and said when he returned to the U.S., he ended up in San Francisco. "We got spit on," he said. He said he didn't talk much about Vietnam — until after 9/11.

Everybody was feeling patriotic then, he remembers. Everybody wanted to wave the flag and bless America.

"I got my pride back," he said. "A lot of the bitterness had worn off."

He went out and bought a Vietnam Veteran hat. Joined the American Legion. He bought a flag that bears the names of the 9/11 victims and took it to memorial events.

He can point out the remnants of eye shadow stain when a woman grabbed the flag, held it to her face and started crying. He said he felt like he was helping in some way. He said it felt good.

So it never occurred to him over the last decade to stop his Friday ritual. His wife doesn't usually go anymore — the heat gets to her — but every Friday Hamblin grabs his flag out of a utility room, puts it in his truck and shows up.

Everyday, 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Standing and waving.

Now the Bayshore Patriots are being honored again for their vigil. A memorial that incorporates a beam from the World Trade Center's north tower is going up on the Bayshore median where members stand. The dedication ceremony is at 4 p.m. today.

The memorial will work like a sundial. Architects are using a computer model to figure out the angle the sun will strike the ground on Sept. 11 at the time the plane struck the north tower and the time when the tower fell. The beam's shadow will fall on the first marker at the time the plane struck. It will fall on the second marker when it fell.

The idea is to reflect those tenuous moments, when no one knew what would happen next.

Naturally, Hamblin will be there. He said he'll keep going until all the troops come home. He wishes he knew when that day would be.

Reach Jodie Tillman at or (813) 226-3374.

Memorial to be dedicated today

A dedication ceremony for the new 911 memorial on Bayshore Boulevard begins at 4:30 p.m. today. On Sunday, the Bayshore Patriots is teaming up with the Tampa Woman's Club and the American Legion Post to sponsor a remembrance event. The ceremonies begin at 8 a.m. Sunday at the Tampa Woman's Club property at 2901 Bayshore Blvd. Speakers will include Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.

One Bayshore Patriot worries the "rah-rah'' is gone 09/08/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 9, 2011 12:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 10 sailors missing, 5 hurt in collision of USS John S. McCain

    SINGAPORE — A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer collided with a tanker early Monday in waters east of Singapore and the Straits of Malacca, and at least 10 sailors are missing.

    The Navy said five others were hurt.

  2. Pasco County Fire Rescue fighting a two-alarm fire started by an explosion


    Two houses are on fire and one victim has been critically burned and taken to a trauma center following an explosion at a home at 8652 Velvet Dr, in Port Richey.

  3. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush


    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Tampa man turns himself in for Sunday hit and run fatality

    Public Safety

    A Tampa man was arrested early Sunday after he struck and killed a pedestrian, left the scene, and then called 911 to turn himself in.