PORT ST. LUCIE — As thousands across the globe descended on Lower Manhattan to visit the footprints of the World Trade Center towers and mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, several hundred gathered locally to reflect and unveil a monument of its own.
During Port St. Lucie's annual memorial service, "oohs" and "ahhs" echoed across the Martin Health System Village Square as city officials unveiled a monument honoring the fallen from Sept. 11.
City officials said the memorial, just feet away from the Civic Center's entrance, eternalizes victims and will serve as a constant reminder of the deepness of the wounds inflicted that day.
Port St. Lucie resident and former New Yorker Benay Hershkowitz lost a loved one in the attack. Hershkowitz said Joseph A. Ianelli, 28, who was like a nephew to him, died on the 98th floor of Tower 1 when it collapsed. With tears in her eyes, Hershkowitz said she now has a place to honor Ianelli.
"I think it's wonderful," Hershkowitz said, donning a shirt bearing Ianelli's smiling image. "I told his mother, Barbara, who lives in New Jersey. She thinks this monument is absolutely incredible. When she comes to town, she'll be able to see it."
The monument's supports mirror the facade of the lower floors of the World Trade Center. A 10-foot-long beam of WTC steel is fixed in the direction of Manhattan and sits on a granite pentagon. The nearly 3,000 victims' names are etched in the stone and surrounded by green granite, which represents the United Flight 93 crash site in Shanksville, Pa. Water cascades over the names.
Palm City resident Marianne Lippmann and her husband, Mitch, a former New York Police Department officer, attended the service. Marianne wept as she searched for the names of four friends.
"I found two names so far," Lippmann said. "This is wonderful because I miss the feeling of New York. At least here, I have a good memory and piece of New York."
Mitch Lippmann reminisced on the weeks he spent sifting through the rumble at ground zero in search of survivors.
"Everyone had their shield numbers or Social Security numbers written on their bodies with Magic Marker just in case they became dismembered or died in another collapse," said Lippmann, who spent 21 years with the NYPD. "We were wearing respirators and still couldn't breath. I went through two filters in an hour and a half."
Although they didn't lose a loved one in the attacks, Fort Pierce couple Mark and Cathy Cozine said they were touched by the permanent tribute. Cathy Cozine became emotional during the unveiling.
"It was such an interruption of personal freedom," Cozine said. "I just feel for everyone who lost someone."