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REMEMBERING 9/11

A surprise visitor makes a Sept. 11 ceremony even more meaningful.

Sam Giamo stood behind the crowd. As the pictures flashed on the screen, he looked down and sometimes turned his back.

At the end, he walked up and hugged Mary Bray, who had organized this memorial of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Giamo told her who he was, and where he used to work, and Bray wept as they hugged for a long moment.

Giamo, 52, had been at his firehouse that morning. By the time the ashes settled, 43 firefighters Giamo had worked with over his long career lay among the fallen.

A year after the terrorist attacks, he retired to Florida, settling in Trinity. He still feels the overwhelming emotions of that time, the personal loss. When he read about the courthouse ceremony, he decided to come.

Bray, who is the judicial assistant and wife of Circuit Judge Lowell Bray, spent two years working toward Friday's unveiling. When she learned about the Flag of Honor, bearing the names of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the Flag of Heroes, for the fallen rescue workers, she bought one of each flag herself. Then she worked to find funds to have them mounted, framed and hung in the courthouse lobby.

It all came together, and the flags now hang on a prominent wall with a plaque between them. The unveiling also included poems and a slide show of the horrific attacks.

"I just think that it's really important that we remember every single day," Bray said.

She began the effort for her cousin, who watched from his office building in lower Manhattan as people jumped to their deaths from the burning towers. And for her son, an active duty Navy service member.

Giamo was probably the only former New York City rescue worker in the small crowd Friday, but no one knew he was coming. He didn't want any accolades.

"I came down here to pay my respects," he said afterward. "That's all I did."

He started to leave but came back into the building with a gift for Bray: an FDNY baseball cap bearing the faded signature of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

His gesture made Bray cry all over again.

"I'm overjoyed and overwhelmed that he came here today to share this with us," she said.

People have been thanking her, she said, for her efforts to complete the courthouse memorial. She shook it off after the encounter with Giamo.

"He's the one that people should be thanking," she said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

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