WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — For the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon wanted to do something special to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that defining day.
Saturday started with a 1-mile memorial run to honor the first responders who died on, or from the effects, of the 9/11 attacks. But the run was just the start of the tribute to firefighters, like David Martin Wiess.
“He was amazing. He was strong he was dedicated. He was scary to look at, but you know, definitely a big guy with a big heart,” explained his cousin, Barbara Fletcher.
Wiess was one of the 343 firefighters who never returned after the call.
“He went into the south tower, came out, went back in and then it collapsed before he could get back out," Fletcher aid. She was honored to have her cousin recognized. "No matter where you are, it’s always going to be remembered.
"No matter where you live, no matter where you are from."
The run wasn’t even the main event of the day. The fire department raised a flag to start that second part, the unveiling of a 9/11 memorial. It's the first of its kind in Pasco County.
A minute of silence at 8:46 a.m. -- the time when the first plane struck the north tower -- was accompanied by a flyover to honor those lost but not forgotten.
“As a New York City police officer, I feel my obligation is to keep those who are lost, to keep their memory alive so people don’t forget,” said Chris Casella the president of Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon. He retired from the NYPD. “I feel if people come through here, children will ask mom what’s that?
"And they’ll point out, hey it’s a memorial for 9/11 victims.”
The memorial was unveiled by those who lost loved ones to 9/11, like Penelope Bastidas whose husband died from 9/11 related cancer just two years ago.
Once the public was invited to view the new memorial, attendees spent as much time admiring the new installation as they did thanking the families of 9/11 first responders for their sacrifices.
All proceeds from the memorial walk and run went toward a scholarship fund for Pasco County students looking to become first responders.
Rotary Club of Wesley Chapel Noon also plans to add to its wall each year and expand it to include local heroes who have served the community.
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