By Brian Goff Belleair Bee
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – After more than a year, a memorial for the victims of 9/11 will soon be a reality.
On June 7, dozens of residents and dignitaries from all over Pinellas County gathered in front of the fire hall of the Suncoast Fire & Rescue District in Indian Rocks Beach for the groundbreaking for the memorial.
The idea for the project came in 2011 when the district received a piece of steel, which had come from one of the buildings of the collapsed World trade Center. The decision to create a memorial was led by Fire Inspector Bob Hill who drew a concept incorporating the steel.
At the ceremony, Chief Robert Polk praised Hill for his vision.
“This would never have happened without the vision of Bob Hill,” he said. “It had been a mission of his since day one. He was even out here this morning doing a bit of landscaping around the site because he felt it didn’t look good enough for the people who would be coming.”
Polk outlined the process that brought them to the groundbreaking from the day they received the steel.
“This project was a long time in the making,” he said. “Once we got the steel from the New York Port Authority, the owners of the World Trade Center, we then began a fundraising campaign. It has really been a community event, you all recall us selling cookbooks to raise money.”
Polk said the $10,000 goal has been reached and now the fabrication of the memorial can begin. He said it is a memorial meant to have far reaching inspiration.
“The memorial is specifically for the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11, but it is also going to remind us that it was a loss for people all over the U.S.A.”
Father Bob Wagenseil, the chaplain of the Fire & Rescue District, blessed the steel and the site.
“This is a dedication to the 343 brothers who died that day at the hands of terrorists,” he said. “We have to be mindful that we will never be overcome by evil, but we will overcome evil by doing good.”
Larry Shear of Indian Shores, a fire commissioner, told the crowd that the memorial represents something akin to the passing of the torch.
“We have just witnessed the 69th anniversary of D-Day,” he said. “It has often been said that the generation that fought in that war was the greatest generation ever. Now we take on that mantle to become the greatest generation to protect and honor those who have fought for our freedom both now and in the future.”
Bob Hill, the man behind the project, was pleased that it will soon come to fruition.
“I’m very satisfied; it is overwhelming really,” he said. “It is the result of a lot of hard work and now it is something that people will be able to enjoy. But there is still a lot of work to do.”
Hill said that while the official fundraising campaign is over he will still accept donations for any unforeseen difficulties that might arise during construction of the Memorial.
Hill also had praise for the artist, Vince Anthony of Madeira Beach.
“We are certainly on the same page. When I told him the concept and what I had in mind he immediately said he knew exactly what I wanted and we’ve been together on it ever since.”
Hill said the memorial will always be something that he will be proud of, every time he sees it.
“I know I’ll be very satisfied,” he said. “I’ll be satisfied that I was able to give something back. What happened was something over which I had no control. But I do have control over this.”
Construction of the memorial will begin immediately and the official opening is scheduled for September 14 of this year.