NE Florida holds 9/11 memorials

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Wednesday marks the somber anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 12 years ago, and events across the area honor those who died and those who served.

Jacksonville and surrounding communities held various opportunities to pay their respects.

One of the largest remembrances was held in Jacksonville at Metropolitan Park in front of the Fire Museum.

Pastor Marvin McQueen, of First Missionary Baptist Church, attended the ceremony and recalled where he was on 9/11.

"I was watching TV and I thought, 'OK, I don't really want to watch this,'" he said. "I turned it, same thing on the next channel, and I said, 'Lord, please don't tell me something is happening like this.' And through every channel I turned to, I honestly broke down crying myself."

IMAGES: Sept. 11th: 12 years later

"We all cried and we all came together in prayer and unity, and we all forgot about our differences on that day and we need to do that on every day," said Helen Jackson, of Women of Color Cultural Foundation, which put on the ceremony.

The focus of the ceremony called "Thank You for Your Service" was to honor the fallen and recognize local heroes for the sacrifices they make to keep residents safe.

In St. Johns County, several services also took place.

The city of St. Augustine honored the victims at the St. Augustine Fire Department's main station Wednesday morning.

The program included a presentation of the colors by the St. Augustine Police Department Honor Guard, an invocation by the St. Augustine Fire Department chaplain, and a minute of silence at 8:46 a.m., timed to coincide with the time the first plane hit the first tower of the World Trade Center. Then the Fire Department's historic fire bell rang 12 times, once for each year since.

Gov. Rick Scott joined students at Bartram Trail High School in a remembrance ceremony that began at 8 a.m.

There was also the special 9/11 Remembrance and Prayer Gathering at noon at the St. Johns County Administration Building off San Sebastian Court. The national event was being held at state and county buildings across the U.S. and will include times of remembrance for the victims and families of those affected by the attacks.

At Florida Community College at Jacksonville's South Campus, a three-hour remembrance began at 10 a.m. The event for reflection on the past and hope for the future is sponsored by FSCJ Student Life and Leadership Development.

The city of Lake City marked the anniversary with a ceremony at the Downtown Olustee Park to honor local first responders, fire and law enforcement officers and honor the memory of the fallen heroes of Sept. 11.

In Orange Park, there's a ribbon cutting for Florida Fallen Heroes and Fallen Heroes Monument Awareness from 5-7 p.m. at The Hilltop Restaurant off Wells Road. Those in attendance will honor the fallen, especially the four graduates of Orange Park, Middleburg and Keystone Heights high schools.

Wednesday evening, Jacksonville Sister Cities Association is hosting a peace concert. The free musical event from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at St. Johns Episcopal Cathedral at 256 East Church Street will feature the Jacksonville Children's Chorus, the Atlantic Coast High School Choir and UNF Chamber Singers.

Then, "Raise Your Glass for the Fallen" will benefit the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation from 5-8 p.m. at Whisky River at the St. Johns Town Center.

While it happened more than a decade ago, local firefighters say no matter how much time passes they will never forget their fallen brothers and sisters.

"To lose 343 brothers in one day is just unbelievable to a department, and really that spread nationwide," said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville fire union. "All fire departments across the nation felt that knowing one day you go into work, next day you don't come home."

Wyse wants to remind the community that 9/11 is an important day to remember, but to also remember the sacrifice firefighters make daily.

"People are running out of the building and the New York City firefighters are running in," he said. "We always want to remember that, but that occurs every day in every city across America."

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