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HOMAGE TO HEROES

On the anniversary of Sept. 11, a plaza is dedicated to those who served selflessly.

Tampa and Hillsborough County officials marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Friday with the dedication of Heroes Plaza, a new park commemorating veterans, firefighters and law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.

"Our lives as Americans will never be the same," said Tampa Fire Chief Dennis Jones, before a bell rang in honor of the firefighters who lost their lives after the attacks.

Gen. David Petraeus, head of Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base and the leader of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, was the guest of honor.

He told a solemn crowd holding American flags that whether they're on the streets of New York, Baghdad or Fallujah, or in the mountains of Afghanistan, true heroes place others before themselves.

"They routinely put themselves in harm's way for our country, innocent citizens, and above all, their comrades on the left and right," he said.

After he spoke, Petraeus and Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio laid a red, white and blue wreath at the base of an American flag while bagpipes played Amazing Grace.

"Out of a terrible event can come goodness. We would like to think that we emerged from this stronger than we were before," Petraeus said in an interview after the ceremony. "Inevitably, each of us has to take the steps to protect the values and freedom that we hold so dear."

Heroes Plaza, located downtown by the St. Pete Times Forum, features pedestals with the names of local law enforcement officers and firefighters killed while on the job.

Glass panels display military photographs and quotes on heroism, including this from Bob Dylan: "A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with freedom."

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

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