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9/11 memorial lights to shine over St. Pete and Palm Harbor

Coronavirus limits some tributes to recorded ceremonies as groups across Tampa Bay remember first-responders and victims lost in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t stopped local plans for in-person and online events commemorating the 19th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

On that day, four coordinated terrorist attacks took the lives of 2,977 people in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, according to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum based in New York.

"We won’t let this year’s circumstances stand in the way of our commitment to remember, honor and support,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman in a statement. “We could sure use some of the unity and resolve that Americans summoned following 9/11 as we work to end this global pandemic.”

Kriseman will speak at Friday morning’s socially-distanced memorial in the Tropicana Field parking lot co-hosted by the Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Petersburg-based nonprofit Remember Honor Support, said Jo Brower, co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit.

In years past, the group hosted a memorial breakfast honoring local first-responders and military service members at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg. This year, the group took pandemic restrictions into account and invites members of the public to bring chairs and masks if they attend the ceremony from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Brower said.

“I fight the fight, and I wasn’t going to let this COVID-19 paralyze us,” she said.

In partnership with Realty One Group Sunshine and the advertising agency StartupStreet, the nonprofit also plans to host a light tribute Friday evening. From about 9:11 p.m. until midnight, two large lights will shine upward from opposite ends of The Coliseum parking lot and be visible from across downtown St. Petersburg, according to Brower. The event will be live-streamed on Facebook. The lights signify the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, which collapsed after the attack.

Curlew Hills Memory Gardens in Palm Harbor also plans to resume its tradition of shining twin memorial light beams skyward on Thursday and Friday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The cemetery also will broadcast a pre-recorded memorial ceremony at 10:00 a.m. Friday on and on its Facebook page.

The Madeira Beach City Commission and Fire Department will gather at the 9/11 Memorial in Causeway Park for a Facebook Live event at 8:45 a.m. on Friday. And the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has recorded a video paying tribute to first-responders who worked in New York and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, that was posted on the agency’s YouTube page.

Volunteers from United Way Suncoast also will be planting a “First-Responders Peace Garden” at the Franciscan Center in Tampa on Friday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., according to a press release.

“The passage of time has a way of making many forget the absolute terror of that day and the sacrifices made by the first-responders before the first tower even fell,” Mayor Kriseman said. "But we must not forget. We must remember. "