St. Augustine ceremony to mark 20th anniversary of 9/11 attacks


Two days after terrorists attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 2,977 people, St. Augustine conducted its first Ceremony of Remembrance. Since then, it has faithfully held the observance each year on the anniversary of the attacks.

This year, the 20th since that tragic day, the local community will gather once again to remember those who died in the attacks. And the St. Augustine Fire Department will honor the day with two special dedications.

Many will never forget that morning, when they were shocked to turn on their televisions to see that a commercial airliner had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The confusion that followed. People asking: “How is that possible?”

In horror, they watched as a second plane struck the South Tower. It was broadcast live in real time. And Americans now knew this was no accident.

A third flight crashed into the Pentagon shortly thereafter. Then, news arrived that a fourth aircraft had crashed in rural Pennsylvania after the passengers attempted to take back control of the plane.

At this year’s ceremony, the City of St. Augustine will dedicate a “Survivor Tree” sapling planted in front of the St. Augustine Fire Department’s main station, 101 Malaga St.

The sapling is a direct descendant of the one single surviving Callery pear tree, known as the “Survivor Tree,” that was discovered at Ground Zero in October 2001. The tree was severely damaged, with snapped roots and burned and broken branches, but was rehabilitated by the New York City Department of Parks and given a chance at new life.

In addition, a piece of steel recovered from the World Trade Center site will be dedicated alongside the sapling.

The ceremony will be held at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, at the fire station. It will be broadcast live online on the Fire Department’s Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/CityStAugFire.

The 15-minute program will include a presentation of the colors; an invocation by the Rev. Matt Marino, rector of Trinity Parish; a musical presentation; remarks by St. Augustine Fire Chief Carlos Aviles; and guest speaker Lt. Robert Aponte, retired FDNY, Engine Company 320, Queens, N.Y.

The ceremony will conclude with a minute of silence at 8:45 a.m., timed to coincide with the time the first plane hit the first tower of the World Trade Center.

Following that, Prevention Chief and Fire Marshal Bob Growick will conduct “Striking the Four 5’s” by ringing the department’s historic 1900 fire bell in four intervals of five rings each. This is a time-honored tradition signifying the last alarm of a firefighter and will be performed in honor of the firefighters, law enforcement officers, military personnel and civilians who died in the attacks.

For additional information, contact the Fire Department at 904-825-1098 or send an email to cityfire@citystaug.com.

To learn more about the St. Augustine Fire Department, go to www.CityStAugFire.com.


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