Orange County Fire Rescue Department. The Orange County Fire Rescue Department hosts a Sept. 11 tribute at the Orange County Convention Centerfrom noon-1 p.m. on Sept. 10.
This writer will never forget. A 21-year-old journalism student at a university in Long Island, N.Y., I was studying quietly in a student lounge when I heard that the World Trade Center had been hit by an airplane.
At my friend’s dorm, we watched the TV in horror as the twin towers collapsed. I tried in vain to call my family members and friends, but the telephone circuits and cellphone towers were damaged.“I was interviewing someone, and I saw people through my office window rushing by
with looks of shock on their face,” said Dr. Phillips resident John Hoffman, who was in New York City’s Pennsylvania Plaza. “I stepped out to hear we were under attack. About 30 of us watched the World Trade Center burn [outside of] our window, and then we gasped as it disappeared into dust.”“Outside our window, I could see hundreds of people covered in soot in what looked like a somber march up Park Avenue,” said Bay Hill resident Debbie Hoffman, who lived in midtown Manhattan, N.Y., in 2001. “I will never forget the gray skies that covered Manhattan for the next week, the smell of burning in the air, and the silence on the night of 9/11 when Manhattan’s bridges and tunnels were closed, and there was no moving traffic except for emergency vehicles.”“I will never forget the days that followed,” said Beth Elkholi of MetroWest, who lived in Queens, N.Y., in 2001. “The air was thick, dusty and smelly. We could not open the windows; it made us ill.”But in spite of the sadness and anger felt by many, this writer has never seen our country come together as powerfully as it did during this time. One of the strongest pictures in my memory is the Southern State Parkway hosting a sea of cars proudly covered with the nation’s colors and flag.“After 9/11, we had a common enemy, and everyone united in patriotic displays that I haven’t seen before or since in my lifetime,” said Ocoee resident Victoria Laney, who lived in Westchester County in New York in 2001.As the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, Southwest Orlando residents are preparing a number of events to remember the fallen and honor the first responders and military.On Sept. 11, West Orlando Baptist Church in Ocoee will host The Response, an early service at 8:30 a.m., followed by a breakfast from 10-10:45 a.m. A second service will be held at 11 a.m. The Rev. Kenric Barnett invites all local first responders and their families to attend and be honored for their service. First responders working in the field that morning are welcome to stop in for a free breakfast and heartfelt thank-you.“I’m hoping it will be a day to show unity for those in attendance,” Barnett said.For Barnett, a service to recognize the community’s first responders and those serving in the military is especially needed.“It is so important for the first responders to know the community knows the sacrifices they make as individuals and as families,” he said. “We need to grow a greater appreciation and respect for first responders. I see the first responders in our church and what they go through.”Local children also will take part in the services, as Barnett feels it is essential to teach them an appreciation for those who serve the community and country.“It is important to have our children as a part of this,” he said. “It’s so important for them to see us honor them — to instill in them that it’s important to do this.”The town of Windermere will hold a memorial service Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. at the Windermere Never Forgets September 11th Memorial Garden behind Windermere Town Hall. The event will feature musical performances by members of First Baptist Church Windermere, as well as a bagpipe rendition of Amazing Grace and bell tolled four times to remember the four downed planes. According to Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, more than 500 people are expected to attend.“Windermere will never forget,” said Bruhn, who has invited all the local families of victims. “As long as I am mayor, I intend to have a service every Sept. 11. It is a way for all of Windermere and all of Central Florida to come together and unite. It is a time to remember Sept. 11 and also a time to continue to remember those who serve and keep us safe.”Bruhn also has chosen to make this a charitable event, and nonperishable food items will be collected for community members in need.Also in attendance will be Windermere resident Jeff Cox, 17, an Eagle Scout from Boy Scout Troop No. 6 out of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at Windermere. Cox spearheaded the creation of Windermere’s memorial garden, which is home to a 650-pound piece of steel from the debris of the World Trade Center. The memorial, the first of its kind in Central Florida, stands 8 feet tall and incorporates 90 hand-painted tiles that represent the 90 countries that lost citizens on 9/11. Together, the tiles measure exactly 9 feet, 11 inches in diameter.“My brother is a firefighter,” Cox said. “It could very well have been my brother running up those stairs if that tragedy had happened here. I can still remember it, even though I was young.”It took Cox nine months of paperwork and phone calls to finally receive the steel, which had to be cleared through six governmental employees and the U.S. court system because it was considered part of a crime scene. His project was recognized as the U.S.’s Top Eagle Scout Project of 2010.“I was overjoyed with the reaction I got from people,” he said. “What this means to them is just incredible. There was so much gratitude. It actually brought a lot of closure to a lot of families who were having trouble grieving. It’s very emotional.”“I appreciate Eagle Scout Jeff Cox, the town of Windermere, and all the businesses and other donors who supported this project,” said Laney, who plans to offer transportation for local seniors to attend Windermere’s ceremony. “Knowing that a young Scout led such an impressive project gives me confidence that we will have good leaders in our future.”The city of Winter Garden will host the 9/11 Week of Remembrance and Tribute from Sept. 5 through Sept. 12 at Winter Garden City Hall. Organized by Stoneybrook West resident Norman Rein, the week will consist of numerous outdoor exhibits provided by local residents, first responders and members of the military. Rein encourages anyone with items to share, especially local members of the military, to email him at
In 1998, Rein retired after 38 years as a Long Island police officer on Suffolk County Police Department’s homicide squad. A longtime volunteer firefighter, Rein was an elected fire commissioner from 1998 until 2004, when he relocated to Southwest Orlando.In the aftermath of 9/11, Rein volunteered for three weeks with a federal Disaster MortuaryOperational Response Team, helping to recover and identify victims’ remains found in the wreckage.“There were over 30 morgue trailers streaming the streets, and every one of them was stocked front to back with bodies and body parts,” he said. “It was very sacred and spiritual. There was the uttermost respect and reverence for those who passed.“In my whole life I have not seen such patriotism than I have in those times,” he added. “As we rode in on the West Side Highway, there were hundreds of thousands of people showing support. I could not help but feel goose bumps. They held up all kinds of quickly made signs that said things like ‘God Bless You,’ and ‘God Save Us.’ It takes a tragedy, but we did rise to the occasion, nonetheless. We don’t take lip service. It was a country coming together.”The Winter Garden City Hall entrance and commission chambers will display exhibits consisting of pictures, artifacts, videos, CDs and belongings of loved ones who died, as well as news articles and publications.“The city commission chambers is a massive room,” Rein said. “We will utilize the screens with a collection of original videos and recordings. The experience will include both visual and audio all 53 hours of the exhibit. There will be hundreds of newspapers, magazines and books spread across 30 to 40 feet of table that people can look through. It will be multimedia, and that will be very powerful.”Rein also is planning a street-art mural that resembles the thousands of posters that were hung by family members looking for loved ones and the pleas for assistance and prayers that were posted all over New York City.“One of the most memorable images is walking around New York in the week that followed 9/11, pushing my daughter’s stroller, and seeing all of the signs posted literally everywhere for missing friends and family,” Debbie Hoffman said.The Winter Garden exhibit will be open Labor Day from 10 a.m.-2p.m., after which it will be open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday from 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The exhibit will be open Sunday, Sept. 11, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Representatives from many businesses surrounding city hall will display the nation’s colors and memorabilia.“The whole city will be a part of this tribute,” Rein said.On Sept. 10, the Orange County Fire Rescue Department will host a tribute on the main stage of the Orange County Convention Center from noon-1 p.m. to honor those who serve their country and community. According to Field Operations Lt. John Westmoreland, the ceremony also will honor those lost and those who responded to the attacks, as well as pay tribute to military personnel currently working for the department.“What happened on Sept. 11, 2001, was a personal wake-up call for me to do something that made a difference in my life,” said Judith Norton, operations/telestaff with OCFRD. “It gave me a renewed purpose. I decided my next job would be to work in the public-safety field and support the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to make sure we are safe, and when we are not, risk their lives to save ours. My job supporting the field personnel is making a difference every day.”Public Affairs Officer Courtney E. Franchio said the Orlando VA Medical Center plans to hold a short memorial service Sept. 11 for its community living center residents.Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4287 will fly its flag at half-staff and hold a ceremony at 11 a.m. on Sept. 11, said District 18 Commander Doug Pattelena. The ceremony, honoring America’s veterans and military troops currently serving, is open to everyone.“Every time we have a function, we always remember our troops,” Pattelena said. “They are our defenders now. We’ve been there, and now they are there. We always remember our troops. We know what they are going through.”The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe will open its 2011-12 concert series Sept. 11 at 3:30 p.m. with September 11th, We Will Never Forget. Patriotic songs will be performed in memory of those who lost their lives during the attacks and in honor of those who saved lives. Tickets are $10, and children 12 and younger receive free admission.First Presbyterian Church of Orlando will host a free service of music and prayer Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. During the event, a special collection will be taken to benefit Camaraderie Foundation Inc., a local nonprofit that provides emotional and spiritual counseling to military service members and their families.Some residents will choose to recognize the anniversary in a personal way, such as Lakes of Windermere resident Janet Wild, who lived in Long Island in 2001. Wild worked in the north tower in 1981 and lost three close friends — one of whom jumped from the 102nd floor rather than die in the jet fuel-induced inferno.“I usually light my 9/11 candle and display my three friends’ Mass cards with my World Trade Center photo on my front door,” Wild said. “I really just spend the day mostly crying and reflecting on that day and what happened. I do acknowledge the times of impact on the towers. I listen for their names, a kind of ritual every 9/11. It’s still overwhelming and unbelievable. I will never forget.”
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