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9/11 Remembrances At Hillsborough County Veterans Memorial Park

Hillsborough County residents came together to remember the people who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks.

Gerard Abbett of Brandon started his day at Hillsborough County Veterans Memorial Park standing for a group photograph with Col. Scott DeThomas, who took command of the MacDill Air Force Base 14 months ago. With them was Chief Master Sgt. Tommy Mazzone, who resides over the base's 6th Air Mobility Wing, and representatives from the Bay Shore Patriots.


The occasion was a solemn one — the 2013 Patriot Day Observance, 12 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Also in remembrance was the first anniversary of the Benghazi, Libya attack, in which four lives were lost, Sept. 11, 2012.


"My heart just bleeds all the time," Abbett said, of his thoughts concerning the extensive death and destruction wrought by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda, who in 2001 hijacked four airliners in their suicide attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City; on the Pentagon, just outside Washington D.C.; and in a field in Pennsylvania.

More than 3,000 people were killed during the attacks, including more than 400 police officers and firefighters.

"They came on our grounds, this was our home," Abbett said, about the insurgents. "For this to happen is just devastating, the loss of life."

With the sentiment came his hope for what comes next.

"You just have to stay strong, to go on and prove America's stronger than its hurt and we can overcome this if we never forget the people we lost," Abbett said. "Once you forget them, it all becomes lost."

Indeed, "Lest We Forget" was the theme of the 2013 Patriot Day Observance at Hillsborough County Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins Jr. Veterans Museum.

Walt Raysick of Brandon, president of the Veterans Council of Hillsborough County, gave the welcoming remarks, while Mary Ellen Harlan, chairman of the 9/11 ceremonies, called the colors. 

"I'm from New York, and when I saw what happened on 9/11 the tears started," Harlan said. As long as there is war, she added, "the tears will never stop."

"Those feeling of shock, sadness and anger are still very real," Raysick said. "The war on terror, it still exists," and thus, he added, the reason for a time out to commemorate Patriot Day on September 11.

The council, he said, "is honored to be a part of the ceremony, to remember the victims, the rescuers, the active duty military, the fallen heroes and the veterans who have served since Sept. 11, 2001."

Col. DeThomas issued a similar sentiment:

"It is an honor to be surrounded by so many patriots, in the finest military community in the world, in a state like Florida that boasts some 20 military installations, some 1.5 million veterans, almost 400,000 of them which live in the greater Tampa Bay region," he said. "It is an honor to stand before you on this very somber day in American history."

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