Rissa Arias
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Speeches and songs stir 1,800 at 9/11 ceremonies
By Tom Middlemiss
Deputies George Cahill, left, and Vincent Martino hold shards of steel from the World Trade Center site formed in the shape of crosses.


The 1,800 people who attended the 9/11 Commemorative Service at the First Baptist Church of Naples on Orange Blossom Drive in North Naples were greeted by a giant 15´x 25´ American flag fluttering in the gentle afternoon breeze between the extended ladders of two fire trucks at the entrance to the Church Worship Center.

Organizer Jerry Sanford, public information officer for the North Naples Fire Department and a retired New York City Fireman, said, "I am humbled by the turnout of so many people who have not forgotten what happened to our beloved country five years ago."

Sanford was also the master of ceremonies, reading a timeline of events on that fateful day. The service opened with the Barron Collier High School Band playing the themes of the armed forces. The colors were presented by honor guards from the North Naples Fire District and the Collier County Sheriff's Department. Following the National Anthem, sung by Ms. Rissa Arias, Dr. Hayes Wicker, pastor of the church, delivered the invocation. Pastor Wicker provided the use of the Worship Center for the event.


The service included firemen, law enforcement officers, emergency medical personnel and members of military associations throughout Collier County. Three shards of steel from the World Trade Center were on display. Two of them, shaped into crosses, were brought to the service by retired Port Authority Police Detective Vincent Martino, who spent 25 years with that department. He is now a Collier County Deputy Sheriff.

Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle, a retired full Colonel in the United States Army and Vietnam Veteran, gave a riveting speech: "The deaths of almost 3,000 people awakened us from a slumber that had led us to ignore the attacks over the preceding 22 years."

He went on to say that "Muslim extremists are responsible for over 5,700 deadly attacks since 9/11, leaving thousands dead and wounded." Commissioner Coyle remembered how the country was united after the 9/11 attacks, but said that the nation's resolve is crumbling. He alluded to the heroes of Flight 93, and those who sacrificed their lives to save others at the World Trade Center. "This is the spirit of unselfishness and cooperation that made our nation great," he said. "It would be much easier fighting the war if we could get the same unity in Congress."

Retired New York City Fireman Bill Coyle followed with an equally emotional speech, telling the audience there are more than 1,100 families whose missing loved ones have still not been identified. "Their memorial is ground zero," he said.

Fifteen-year-old Caira Everly sang Amazing Grace, accompanied by the Harp and Thistle Pipe Band of Southwest Florida and the Baron Collier High School Band.

East Naples Fire department Fire chaplain Dave Eifert rang the "four fives" bell, a tradition honoring fallen fireman. 343 New York City Firemen, 37 Port Authority Police Officers and 23 New York City Police Officers died on 9/11 in the process of rescuing more than 25,000 people from the burning towers of the World Trade Center.

The service concluded with the singing of God Bless America.

©Naples Sun Times 2007

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