9/11 tribute draws more than 1,000

Parade of Uniformed firefighters to honor fallen comrades.

Over 1,000 people gathered Sunday morning at the Wellington Town Center amphitheater to mark the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11. The event offered the community an opportunity to unite and reflect with reverence and appreciation on the devastation that changed the nation a decade ago. Participants came to witness the dedication of a new memorial that includes a twisted piece of steel from the Twin Towers, an American flag from New York City, pieces of glass etched with names of fallen heroes, and an eternal flame, which was lit as the crowd watched.

The Fire Chief’s Association of Palm Beach County and the village of Wellington also sponsored an impressive tribute to the heroes of that fateful day, as well as the local team of public safety workers and military personnel in Palm Beach County.

As attendees arrived at the event, they drove past a long, symbolic row of approximately 20 rescue vehicles and fire engines lining Forest Hill Boulevard, with huge American flags hoisted between the ladders on several pairs of ladder trucks.

In poignant attendance were nearly 500 uniformed men and women, mostly fire-rescue personnel, who opened the ceremony by marching a few blocks, then moving into the crowd in formation and surrounding seated guests. The applause, while consistently appreciative throughout the morning, grew to a crescendo when a small team of about a dozen former New York City firefighters and police officers arrived.

Also from New York City, and a pivotal part of the event, was the day’s keynote speaker, former firefighter Ron Parker. Giving a gut-wrenching firsthand account of his experiences on that horrible day, Parker told the crowd that, like so many others, he narrowly escaped death while losing so many of his comrades from the New York City Fire Department. Following his somber story was a moment of silence, a bell salute, a gun salute and the playing of “Taps.” Throughout the ceremony were renditions of inspirational music played over a loud speaker, mixed with live performances that included a unique rendition of “Amazing Grace” by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the county fire-rescue department. Moving video also played silently throughout on a jumbo screen depicting scenes of the tragedy as it unfolded 10 years ago.

Shortly after Parker’s speech, a second ceremony took place a few steps away, dedicating the Patriot Memorial, which features at its core a piece of steel from one of the towers. WPTV anchor Jim Sackett, who served as master of ceremonies, was joined by several elected officials to introduce the memorial, raise the flag and light the eternal flame.

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Michele Kirk

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