Dade City and Zephyrhills conduct ceremonies of sorrow and renewal.
By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 2002
DADE CITY -- Perhaps it was fitting Wednesday that rain forced a morning memorial service to move inside the mausoleum of Chapel Hill Gardens, just south of Dade City.
There, surrounded by tombs, the crowd that gathered shortly after 8 a.m. solemnly remembered those who died in the terrorist attacks a year ago.
Firefighters, police officers and other emergency workers from Dade City and Zephyrhills were in formal dress, creating a sea of blue uniforms that filled most of the room.
People young and old showed up -- women with gray hair and tears in their eyes, young girls clad in their Sunday best.
"Words seem inadequate at this time," said state Rep. Ken Littlefield, R-Dade City.
Littlefield's wife, Carol, sang a medley of patriotic songs. Other local dignitaries -- mayors, police chiefs, fire chiefs -- also spoke. But most of them were brief, seeming to grasp that silence spoke louder than words could on this day.
After officials dedicated a memorial stone at Chapel Hill Gardens, the ceremony moved to the Dade City Fire Rescue station, where at 10:05 a.m., five air horn blasts pierced the air to mark the first World Trade Center collapse.
Firefighters and police officers stood at attention in the steady rain as the station's flag was lowered to half staff.
The workers in uniform and the spectators hunched under umbrellas moved for several minutes to the side of the station, where two trees were dedicated in memory of the attacks.
The crowd then reassembled out front, observing several moments of silence as the rain fell harder and a breeze picked up. At 10:28 a.m., another five horn blasts rang out, commemorating the second tower's collapse.
Pasco High School student Jacqui Urbuteit sang God Bless America as the flag was raised to full staff. The ceremony ended. The crowd headed inside the station for refreshments and to escape the rain.
Life in Dade City went on.
More than 500 people packed into the First Baptist Church of Zephyrhills on Wednesday night for a Hope 9/11 service, moved from Zephyr Park by the threat of rain.
Mayor Cliff McDuffie, joined on stage by ministers from several area churches, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
As the service opened, the city's police and firefighters were welcomed with a standing ovation before the crowd prayed in unison for their safety.
McDuffie read a resolution declaring Wednesday a day of rememberance in Zephyrhills.
"God bless all of those whom we lost a year ago," McDuffie said, "and all of their families."
-- Staff writer Chase Squires contributed to this report.