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TEARFUL TRIBUTES

REMEMBERING: Somber ceremonies recall a terrible loss and heroic efforts.

Four North Pinellas County cities remembered Sept. 11, 2001, the eighth anniversary of the American tragedy, in different ways Friday.

It started Friday morning with somber ceremonies in Clearwater and Oldsmar. And it continued into the evening with a Freedom Walk in Safety Harbor and a memorial concert at the Dunedin Community Center.

On Friday morning, Clearwater Fire and Rescue workers remembered the 343 New York firefighters and others who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks with a moment of silence.

The first responders at all eight fire stations throughout the city displayed their apparatus and activated the lights on their emergency vehicles. All city flags were flown at half-staff.

At the main station at 610 Franklin St., Lt. Robert Quinn and fire medic Sean Becker laid out their gear in honor of their fallen comrades as a dozen men in uniform stood in attention.

About 30 onlookers gathered to watch the brief and solemn ceremony.

Virginia Costa, a personnel payroll technician known as "Mom" by the firefighters, shed a tear as she watched from the sidelines.

"I was thinking about the great loss of this day," she said. "I was thinking about the families and all those firefighters who thought of others before themselves."

She was flanked by Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and state Rep. Ed Hooper.

After the remembrance, Hibbard said it was "incumbent upon all of us to remember the ones that didn't have a choice, as well as those that made the choice to go in and save lives and in doing so, lost their own."

In Oldsmar, about 200 visitors, firefighters, members of the military and politicians attended the Fire Department's 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at the station, 225 Pine Ave.

Two bald eagles from Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo - Cyrus, handled by Melinda Mendoulsky, and Olivia, a juvenile handled by Susie Todd - led the color guard into the bay of the fire station as the colors were posted.

The color guard was made up of firefighters from the East Lake, Palm Harbor and Dunedin fire departments.

A pipe and drum corps provided music for the remembrance.

Oldsmar fire Chief Scott McGuff was the emcee. Among the speakers were U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Oldsmar Vice Mayor Jerry Beverland and U.S. Army LTC Cedrick Farrior, who delivered the keynote address.

The ceremony concluded with a flurry of activity.

Everyone filed outside and listened to the tolling of a bell next to a Sept. 11 memorial that features a piece of a steel beam from one of World Trade Center towers. The memorial is in the middle of a small brick courtyard in which the bricks are inscribed with the names of the 343 firefighters.

Festivities closed with a flyover by an Army helicopter.

Times Staff Writer Jim Damaske contributed to this report.

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