Meet the Florida artist painting portraits of every 9/11 victim

Dave D’Marko, Lake County Reporter

LEESBURG, FL —¬†They are the faces of 9/11, and a painter in Lake County, Florida, has made it his mission to tell their stories.

Mike DeMinico has no connection to any of the victims, but he has spent almost every day since retirement in his garage in Leesburg, working on a labor of love: A project he began in 2002 to honor the victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Some of the completed paintings. Photo Lake County Reporter

Some of the completed paintings. Photo Lake County Reporter

“I couldn’t shake the idea, and I thought not only can I do it, I’m going to do it,” DeMinico said.

For each one of his portraits, there’s a name and a story, like 33-year old Benito Valentin, who loved salsa dancing with his three daughters.

“That’s very much a part of the project for me,” said DeMinico, 63. “I hope it gives the work an emotional component that otherwise wouldn’t be there. I want to know these people.”

In the 13 years since he started the project, DeMinico has completed close to 1,300 portraits of the 2,977 victims. His portraits were on display at a 10th anniversary commemoration in New York in 2011.

“What I hear from the families is they appreciate the idea that their loved ones are being commemorated on the same kind of level as presidents and movie stars,” DeMinico said.

Though DeMinico said life events and lack of funding have slowed the project at times, he now hopes to have portraits of every victim with photos he can find in databases by September 11, 2016, marking 15 years since the attacks.

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