9/11 ceremonies at mercy of elements

Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida on Sept. 10 last year, wiping out, among other things, annual memorial services to remember the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. At press time, Tropical Storm Gordon has formed south of Florida, but so far nothing in the Atlantic threatens to soak three St. Lucie Sept. 11 memorials on the 17th anniversary of the largest terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

The New York City Fire Department Florida Retirees Martin/St. Lucie Division’s annual Sept. 11 remembrance will be at First Data Field, 525 NW Peacock Blvd. in St. Lucie West at 9 a.m. The Marine Corps League Jack Ivy Detachment #666, Port St. Lucie, will be on hand. “We’re going to be there with the rifle squad, sergeant at arms, and a bugler,” said Bob Leon, an event spokesperson for the league. “We’ll do a 21-gun salute. We’ll play taps.”

That service will be alongside the 9/11 Memorial at First Data Field, which was erected in 2005 when the facility was still Tradition Field. The hope had been to have the memorial ready for the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, but the active 2004 hurricane season prevented that.

The New York City Fire Department Florida Retirees Martin/St. Lucie Division obtained a 12-inch-by-15 inch beam from the World Trade Center in 2003. St. Lucie Village artist Pat Cochran designed a metal sculpture with two jagged, squared 8-foot steel columns to hold the artifact that’s inscribed “9-11-01 WTC.”

The monument, unveiled in March 2005, was built during good economic times with the help of $9,000 the St. Lucie County Commission approved for its construction.

The second service slated for Tuesday morning in Port St. Lucie is at 8:30 a.m., when the City of Port St. Lucie will have its annual Sept. 11 ceremony at the September 11th Memorial Fountain at the PSL Civic Center. The theme will be “Liberty and Freedom for ALL – Remembering the Past and Embracing the Present.”

The St. Lucie County Fire District Chief Nate Spera will be the master of ceremonies. Additionally, Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc will speak. Members of the clergy will speak and the St. Lucie Fire District’s Pipes and Drums Band will perform.

The September 11th Memorial Fountain was unveiled in 2012. It’s an 11-foot steel beam from the World Trade Center hoisted upon squared columns reminiscent of a façade on the World Trade Towers. The names of those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are etched under the beam on marble with a waterfall cascading over them.

The monument was built in 2012 during a time when the city was in economic crisis. The Treasure Coast community rallied with more than $50,000 in donated services and materials to build the monument. In some quarters, the monument represented hopefulness for Port St. Lucie’s future even as it was reeling from the housing crash and failed economic-development projects.

One of the names inscribed at the September 11th Memorial Fountain is a Fort Pierce native, CeeCee Ross Lyles. She was a tough-as-nails former cop working as a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 11 on Sept. 11, 2001.

Many narrations of the passenger uprising against the terrorists on that flight give her a central role.

The terrorists never made it to their target. Ross Lyles and other passengers overpowered them and crashed the plane near Shanksville, Pa. Lorne Lyles, her husband, reported that in their last phone call during the hijacking, Ross Lyles said, “We’re getting ready to do it now. It’s happening.”

In 2003 the City of Fort Pierce unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of Ross Lyles at Liberty Garden, 600 N. Indian River Drive. At first there was no accompanying plaque explaining who she was. No explanation was needed. Everybody knew who she was and what she did. Eventually a plaque was erected by the statue.

Ross Lyles graduated from Westwood High School and later joined the Fort Pierce Police Department in the 1990s. The mother of two served for six years working her way up from patrol officer to detective. She left the force in October 2000 to work at United Airlines as a flight attendant, a job she’d long dreamed of. She started it in January 2001.

The annual CeeCee Ross Lyles 9/11 Memorial will be 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Liberty Garden this Tuesday.

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