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With steel, flags and resilience, Tampa Bay area marks anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks

Surrounded by American flags at the Tampa Firefighters Museum, Tammy Greene touched her husband's shoulder. She sat close to him Sunday, smiling when she says he recently retired from Tampa Fire Rescue. ¶ It's a relief after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, left her constantly wondering: Is he going to come home alive?

In St. Petersburg's Straub Park, Clearwater Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Danny Jones, 55, rolled his shoulders forward to hoist a flame-resistant coat around them. His 20-year-old son, Chris, joined him, wearing the gear of Seminole Fire Rescue. Jones' nephew, Alan, stood next to them, too, putting on his own fire gear.

A family motivated to serve.

"It's the pride in putting on the gear," said Alan Jones, a 46-year-old St. Petersburg firefighter.

Ten years after the terrorist attacks, Floridians remembered the thousands of lives lost and honored service members in ceremonies held Sunday throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Resilience, they repeated on this anniversary. Strength.

• • •

In downtown Tampa, Byron and Sarah Martin brought their three sons to the dedication of the firefighters museum and the unveiling of its memorial.

The Carrollwood couple wanted the boys to appreciate the history behind Sept. 11, a date they're too young to really recall.

During a recent visit to Ground Zero, the boys ages 8, 13 and 15 asked their parents: What exactly happened here?

At Sunday's event, hundreds around them remembered the feeling of a country under attack. They faced the large American flag fluttering over Zack Street between two fire engine ladders and sniffled.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, police Chief Jane Castor and fire Chief Tom Forward lauded the city's first responders.

"You do it because you believe in something larger than just yourself," Buckhorn said. "You do it for us."

Tampa City Council members, state representatives and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman sat in the crowd.

In the quiet lulls of the ceremony, 22-month-old Sebastian squeaked and squirmed. He's too young now, but his mother hopes to someday teach him the legacy of Sept. 11.

"I just want him to understand the way America pulled together," said Melissa Brinley, 32, of New Port Richey, "and what makes America what it is."

• • •

In St. Petersburg, Ken Bradbury gazed at the top of 400 Beach Drive, a 30-story condominium tower across the street from Straub Park. The World Trade Center buildings were 110 stories each, he noted.

"It's hard to visualize two more of those — and then some — sitting on the ground," he said.

Around him, hundreds of firefighters and police from several cities milled about. Emergency vehicles from a vintage fire truck to an Avenger missile launcher lined Bayshore Drive.

Chef Debra Murray, a cookbook author often featured on the Home Shopping Network and the owner of Banyan Tree Catering, sponsored the event with St. Petersburg firefighter Kris Hollenback.

She said her own life changed after the attacks, starting with double duty spent on the air when other chefs could not fly.

"A pallor went over everybody," said Murray, 50. "I think every person went into a depression mode when we saw all those images 10 years ago. I think a lot of us never treated it."

But in recent years, co-sponsor Hollenback, 38, sensed a "tapering off" effect and warned against forgetting.

"When the year 2014 comes around," he said, "I'd like to see that we're not celebrating it at a bowling alley."

• • •

More than 300 people paid their respects at a ceremony held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1029 in Spring Hill.

The post's memorial, constructed by a New York City retired firefighters chapter, contains tangible reminders of that day: a piece of steel saved from the trade center and a roof tile salvaged from the Pentagon.

• • •

At Bright House Field in Clearwater, a man reached out a hand. He knocked on a rusty piece of steel, as if to test its strength.

The 3-foot-long hunk of metal sat in a wooden casket-like structure, brown and bent and jagged. It had melted and discolored in the fires as the World Trade Center buildings burned, then fell.

The steel was displayed in the field's concourse Sunday before it finds a permanent home at Clearwater Fire and Rescue's training facility. People touched it, feeling the sandpaper-like surface, and took photos of it.

Calvary Baptist Church of Clearwater hosted the event for an estimated 4,400 people to recognize first responders.

The crowd applauded U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard. The loudest and longest welcome went to Lorraine Yaslowitz, widow of slain St. Petersburg police Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz. She smiled softly and quietly said, "Let us pray."

When the bagpipes played Amazing Grace, everybody hummed along.

• • •

At Raymond James Stadium, two commemorative ribbons marked the field for the afternoon Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Detroit Lions. Players from both teams wore ribbon emblems on their jerseys.

Bucs receiver Arrelious Benn went one step further: He wore one blue cleat and one red one, with "FDNY" on one and "NYPD" on the other.

Tributes included videos featuring actors Robert De Niro and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as a moment of silence. Taps played before the national anthem.

For the coin toss, a Sept. 11 emblem stood for heads. It was called and won.

Times staff writer Joe Smith and researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Stephanie Wang can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.

With steel, flags and resilience, Tampa Bay area marks anniversary of Sept. 11 attacks 09/11/11 [Last modified: Sunday, September 11, 2011 10:54pm]
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