Central Florida remembers the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks
On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Central Florida came together to remember the lives lost on 9/11 and the heroes whose names will live on forever in the nation’s memory.
From the young to the elderly, most of them alive during September 11, 2001, they can vividly remember where they were when they heard the news on that tragic day.
Whether in the kindergarten cafeteria on the first day of school, about to board a business trip, or just watching TV at home, every American shares the unique bonds of grief forged that day and the brief but glorious moments of loneliness that followed.
Among the wide variety of rebuilding in Central Florida, Windemere’s service at the 9/11 Memorial in the city epitomized the day’s most intimate event. Elected officials, city leaders, clergy, families of victims, and first responders came together to honor those lost.
Constructed by Eagle Scout Jeff Cox just over ten years ago, the memorial remains a focal point for the community and serves as a gathering place each year on the anniversary of the attacks.
Pictured above (from left to right) stand former Windermere Mayor Gary Brown, Police Chief David Ogden, retired firefighter Robert Miglio, Rina Upton Haig, current Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien and Windermere Police Chaplain.
After the September 11 attacks, Miglio, a former Michigan firefighter, volunteered to help New York’s first responders at the site. During his involvement, Miglio also collected an exhibition of pictures, ashes, and other items from the scene which he displayed at the Windermere memorial service.
To Milio’s right: Rina Upton Hay. Allen Upton, Upton Hay’s brother, worked near the top floor of the First World Trade Center for the Cantor Fitzgerald Company. In addition to the events of 9/11, Upton previously experienced the chaos of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. Tragically, he and 658 of his colleagues were lost on 9/11. But Haig says her brother’s memory, resilience, passion for life and love for others continues in the memory and lives of those who knew him.
The service included prayers by local chaplains and a Windermere police chaplain as well as dozens of patriots and a police honor guard. Mayor Jim O’Brien spoke, recalling the unity of the days and months after 9/11: “Remember with me a moment when you couldn’t buy an American flag, because 79% of American adults displayed a flag with pride. When the U.S. Congress came together to rule the way a common enemy could create Just, consider this fact, after 9/11, 60% of adults expressed confidence in the federal government, a level not seen in at least three decades prior to that time, nor the two decades where.”
In addition to the city’s mayor and clergy, former Navy aviator Rick Bonner, who also served as an administrator at one of Orlando’s most famous Christian schools, Academy One, also spoke.
“We celebrate Memorial Day to honor members of our forces who paid the greatest sacrifice. I see Patriot Day as a time to honor first responders in memory of their service and sacrifice,” Navy veteran Rick Boehner told the audience.
Boehner further reflects in his speech on what might bring back Unit 9/12 and speaks to the current state of the nation today:
Charles Blow, columnist for the New York Times, rightly said, ‘We are all forever covered with a little ashes from those towers.’ This day permanently changed America’s life…but it was the day that brought us together again in unity, until After a divisive election. [the previous year], for a season… One might ask, “What brought us together?”
“We realized we had a lot in common that we thought we did. But the question I have now, is, how do we get back to that level of unity? I would suggest that it’s not politics or military action…but something that will be a much deeper unification” .
“I have served [in the Navy]. When you are called to give up your life, you have to deal with what is worth living for and dying for. You find that you should live your life according to a certain set of meaningful values, and in the military, we do just that.”
After Bonner’s speech, the service concluded with a special wreath-laying ceremony and taps.
Windermere and Orlando served as major sites, with the former being the only city in the Central Florida region to boast a monument.
Below can be found a photo gallery of the Windermere Service and other local memorial ceremonies.