BRADENTON -- With a terrorist army on the march in Iraq and Syria and fresh concerns about the possibility of another attack on the American homeland, a crowd of several hundred attended the 9/11 Tribute to Heroes Memorial Service on Thursday.
"Never forget," said speaker after speaker at the First Responders Memorial in downtown Bradenton, commemorating the estimated 3,000 who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings on Sept. 11, 2001.
"Towers may fall, but freedom still rings," Pastor Don Sturiano said in his invocation, recalling the destruction 13 years ago of the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center.
"Now I pray for the safety of this nation," Sturiano concluded, referring to the new threat of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
Lt. Linda Seconndi, a retired fire lieutenant from the Merck Fire Department in Rahway, N.J,, said the 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of more Americans than even the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
"The attacks were intended to break our spirit, but they failed," Seconndi said.
She urged continued vigilance.
"Don't think that can never happen in Florida," Seconndi said. "If you see something, say something."
Deputy Chief Scott Tyler of the Palmetto Police Department continued the theme.
"Evil tried and failed to defeat our nation," he said.
The U.S. is now better-prepared to prevent an attack through new communications protocols, better training, and renewed vigilance, Tyler said. But America is still vulnerable.
"We are still in danger. The legacy of 9/11 keeps us vigilant," he said.
The attacks also inspired a new generation of Americans to serve in the military and as first responders, Tyler said.
"Far too many have paid the ultimate price," he said.
Among those who died during 9/11 were the 343 firefighters in the Twin Towers, helping rescue hundreds of those trapped and injured.
"They were scared, but they never wavered," Tyler said. "They still went up those stairs, dragging their hoses and equipment."
Other poignant moments during the service Thursday included the playing of "Taps," a three-volley rifle salute by Palma Sola VFW Post 10141, and the ringing of a bell for fallen fire service personnel, including retired firefighters Robert Kline and Gerald Kalmbach who died in 2013, and Brian Reed who died in the line of duty in 2001.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.