ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As America remembers the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 this week, the St. Pete community prepares to unveil a new memorial dedicated to the days following the attacks.
The memorial will be located on the 22nd Street Corridor in the Warehouse Arts District. The centerpiece will consist of a nine-foot-fall, 4,000-pound steel beam, the last one removed from the World Trade Center.
“This is one and a quarter-inch thick steel and it’s been pushed around like it’s clay,” said artist Mark Aeling, as he runs his hands through the scarred steel.
“This is all about the dawn of a new day and rising from the ashes and how we move forward,” said Aeling.
The memorial is called Rise St. Pete.
“The day of 9/11 was a tragedy but America came together the day after, once again we honor the first responders who ran back into the fire even though the building had just collapsed,” said Scott Neil, COO of American Freedom Distillery, who founded the project.
Neil said it wouldn’t be possible without the community's support, raising over $400,000 in donations.
“We need a new generation of kids, our family members, they’re going to have to respond to some crisis one day and we want this monument to speak to the courage,” said Neil.
Behind the steel beam will be a 30-foot copper phoenix wing and behind that a half-moon wall featuring hundreds of hand-painted tiles.
“Folks from the community, from school children to first responders, to veterans,” said Aeling.
Ailing said he’s never felt so much honor and responsibility surrounding a project.
“We really want to create a moment of contemplation and remembrance,” said Aeling.
The memorial will also include trees sent directly from President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
The official unveiling is Saturday, Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.