Posted by: Leadership Tampa Alumni on Monday, September 13, 2021

Twenty years ago this month, our world changed forever. Many in our country reflect where they were on September 11th, and for the millennial generation it served as their first “Where were you when…” moment.  Yet September 11th means so much more to me, it evokes of a time when our nation came together to remember those who lost their lives in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93. It’s about the first responders who gave their lives, and our military members and veterans who served in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in response to September 11th.  In honor of the twentieth anniversary of September 11th, I wanted to share a story with you about a memorial in Tampa, which all started with a beam.

It was a beam acquired from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the City of Tampa wanted to acknowledge the ten-year anniversary of September 11th in a special way. It’s located on Bayshore Boulevard and Bay to Bay. Like many of our best stories in Tampa, there is a connection to Leadership Tampa. The architect who designed the memorial was a future Leadership Tampa graduate. I spoke with this LT ’17 graduate: John Thompson who shared with me how intentional the design was.

“The City acquired an artifact from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an eight-foot steel column from the original World Trade Center. The City chose a location to establish a memorial for the World Trade Center where a group of Patriots and representatives of the Coalition Forces regularly gather to show support for our military and first responders. The site is in the median of Bayshore Boulevard at Bay to Bay which is known since September 11th as “Patriot’s Corner”. Bayshore's southern terminus is an entry to MacDill AFB.

From May to September 2011 the memorial was designed and constructed for a September 11 dedication date. The project was a primarily a pro-bono effort. The fast-paced schedule required close coordination between the Design Team, the City, local citizens, MacDill AFB, and the Construction Manager.

The World Trade Center site is represented as an elevated concrete base, matching the orientation and scale of the original site in New York City. Thin aluminum members rise from the base, tracing the placement, material, and proportions of the original north and south towers. The memorial is reproduced at one-hundredth scale of the actual towers and site. In the evening the artifact is illuminated with five surrounding LED light fixtures representing to scale the five points of the Pentagon. The steel WTC artifact is held above the base and reaching to the sky within the symbolic north tower and functions as a sundial. As the shadow of the artifact falls on a lower slab on the morning of September 11, the lower slab marks the duration of time from the first airplane’s impact on the north tower at 8:46 a.m. to the subsequent collapse of the north tower at 10:28 a.m. on September 11, 2001.”

As a reminder of how impactful this day was to so many, I leave you with a few quotes from past and current leaders on how they reflected on this day:

One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11. And here at this hallowed place, we pledge that we will never forget their sacrifice.”—President George W. Bush at the Pentagon in 2008

“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.” – President Barack Obama at the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on a radio address

My father, Norberto, was a pastry chef at ­Windows on the World in Tower One. For 10 years, he made many fancy and famous ­desserts, but the sweetest dessert he made was the marble cake he made for us at home. … Whenever we parted, Poppi would say, ‘Te amo. Vaya con Dios.’ And this morning, I want to say the same thing to you, Poppi. I love you. Go with God.”

—Catherine Hernandez at the World Trade Center site in 2008