September’s Second Saturday ArtWalk will have a special component – the formal unveiling of the steel beam, salvaged from the World Trade Center, that will form the centerpiece of the long-planned Rise St. Pete Memorial.
The memorial is not yet complete, but because Saturday marks the 20-year anniversary of 9-11, the reveal has special significance.
The brief ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. at 515 22nd Street S., near the Arts Xchange campus, part of the Warehouse Arts District.
Sculptor Mark Aeling, president of the Warehouse Arts District Association, said the memorial is “very close to being fully funded.” More than $400,000 in donations have been received so far for the project, which was announced in 2018.
Rise St. Pete was spearheaded by Scott Neil, the co-founder of American Freedom Distillery and a member of the first Special Operations force to engage in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. Each of the American Freedom founders was part of this “Horse Soldiers” Green Beret combat team.
The pandemic, and last year’s bitter political season, distracted the memorialists from their goal, Neil said in July. “But as we get closer to 9-11, and the 20th anniversary, this is going to become present in everybody’s mind,” he told the Catalyst. “So as we go to finish this project, it really is a statement not about the day of 9-11 but the day after. When the community came together.”
The rusty nine-foot, two-ton beam was discovered in 2018 while construction teams were placing a statue at Ground Zero, honoring the American horse soldiers who pursued and fought the Taliban in those frightening early days. It’s believed to be one of the last remaining pieces of structural World Trade Center steel.
Aeling, who’s creating a 25-foot-tall bird’s wing made of copper, will speak at the ceremony, as will Neil and warehouse Ars District Association committee member Ron Schlosser, the Treasurer of the nonprofit Rise St. Pete organization.
St. Petersburg Poet Laureate Helen Pruitt Wallace will read the poem she has written for the still-unfinished memorial; it will be engraved into the pylon built to support the steel beam.
Local residents, including children, have been painting ceramic tiles for the rear wall of the memorial.