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Twenty years later: Pinellas commemorates 9/11

Mark Parker



Two 1,000-foot-tall beams of light illuminate Curlew Hills Memory Gardens in remembrance of 9/11. Photo from Curlew Gardens Facebook page.

As the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks approaches, several events around Pinellas County are scheduled to honor and memorialize the country’s loss on that fateful day, and in the wars that followed.


Curlew Hills Memory Gardens in Palm Harbor has several special guests slated to appear at its memorial, which starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, with country star Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the U.S.A.”) scheduled to perform.

Longtime area news anchor John Wilson will be the master of ceremonies for the roughly two-hour event, and the keynote speaker is Garrett Lindgren, a retired New York City Firefighter with 21 years of service in F.D.N.Y. Lindgren was assigned to Rescue Company 3, which covered the Bronx and Harlem.

After retiring from the F.D.N.Y. in 2002, Lindgren moved to Florida, supervising a Department of Homeland Security team that maintained an equipment cache designed for deployment as a terrorism response resource. He is also a charter member of 941 Hero, a charitable organization that aids families of firefighters who have died in the line of duty.

The program also includes flyovers from the U.S. Coast Guard and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

From 8 to 10 p.m., Curlew Hills will project two towering beams of light more than 1,000 feet in the air meant to mirror the twin beams that illuminated New York City from Ground Zero following 9/11. 

The ceremony begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday at 1750 Curlew Rd. in Palm Harbor. Curlew Hills will also be streaming the event on their Facebook page.

Artist rendering of completed Rise St. Pete memorial at night.

In St. Petersburg, the initial stage of the long-awaited Rise St. Pete Memorial will be unveiled Saturday in a brief 6 p.m. ceremony Saturday. The centerpiece of the memorial is a 9-foot-tall, 4,000-pound steel beam that is said to be the last removed from what remained of the World Trade Center.

The memorial, on 22nd Street South near 5th Avenue, is not yet complete, but organizers felt it was important to commemorate the 20th anniversary.

Originally announced in 2018, sculptor Mark Aeling, president of the Warehouse Arts District, said the memorial is “very close to being fully funded.” Rise St. Pete is the brainchild of Scott Neil, co-founder of American Freedom Distillery and one of the celebrated “Horse Soldiers” that were the first Special Operations force with boots on the ground in Afghanistan following the terror attacks.

Neal will speak at the event, as will Aeling, who is also creating a 25-foot-tall copper bird’s wing for the memorial. St. Petersburg Poet Laureate Helen Pruitt will recite the poem she has written for the memorial, which will be etched into the base built to support the steel beam.

Elsewhere in the county, Madeira Beach will be hosting a remembrance ceremony at the city’s memorial. This will take place Saturday morning from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., at 424 150th Ave.

The City of Gulfport will also host a 9/11 memorial outside of the Casino Ballroom. This event begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at 5500 Shore Blvd. S.

Built in 2012, the one-of-a-kind 9/11 Memorial at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens features twisted piece of steel “floating” in the center, 30 tons of American granite as the towers, and a bright eternal flame at its base. Surrounding the 9/11 memorial itself are large granite monuments with the engraved names of the firefighters who lost their lives at 9/11 – including the K-9 dog who perished that day. Photo provided.



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