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Tributes great and small

Flags waved, bells tolled and people prayed and recited the names of the dead.

By ALICIA CALDWELL, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 2002

Flags waved, bells tolled and people prayed and recited the names of the dead.

She was supposed to turn north. A full day of sales appointments awaited her.

Instead, Sandy Hazinski went south, pulling her turquoise Buick into the Seminole Mall parking lot. Between the Kmart and Stein Mart and beyond the food court, the 60-year-old Seminole woman found what she was looking for: Seminole Salutes America, a spirited Sept. 11 memorial event.

"I decided I needed to be part of something," she said, a rhinestone flag pin affixed to her shirt. "It drew me."

Hazinski was among untold thousands of Tampa Bay area residents who waved flags, prayed, sang or simply bowed their heads in respect Wednesday as the country somberly reflected on the terrorist attacks of a year ago.

The area observances were as varied as the people who live in west central Florida. World War II veterans, shoulders thrown back, conducted honor guards. Clergy held contemplative services, elegance emanating from their simplicity. And children in scores of schools took part in red-white-and-blue day.

Those colors were very much in evidence in Pasco County, where dozens of people lined U.S. 19, waving their U.S. flags at morning drivers.

"This is what we stand for," said Fred Colucci, 70, who organized the tribute. "This is what we do at war. You wave your flag. Your true colors."

The event was was inspired by Flags on the Bayshore in Tampa, which drew an estimated 15,000 people including Army Gen. Tommy Franks. Franks also planned to address the crowd at Wednesday night's Tampa Bay Devil Rays game at Tropicana Field.

The Pasco flag wavers were greeted by a chorus of car horns in the minutes before 9 a.m., about the time America realized that commercial airliners were crashing into the World Trade Center towers one year ago.

At the same time, the sentiment resounded in St. Petersburg at St. Peter's Cathedral with the tolling of church bells. Volunteers then took turns in the church's candlelit sanctuary respectfully reciting the names, ages and hometowns of those killed in the attacks.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker arrived shortly before 10 a.m. and took a turn, reading a dozen names.

"Each one of these names is like a drop in the pond," he said.

Firefighters in Spring Hill also rang bells and recited names of the 343 New York City firefighters who died a year ago. The Spring Hill firefighters conducted the traditional "Striking of the Four Fives" at 10:05 and 10:28 a.m., the times at which the towers fell. A bell struck in four sets of five strikes is a 19th century New York tradition used to mark the death of a firefighter or noted community member.

Retired New York City police and firefighters, who have settled in Spring Hill in substantial numbers over the years, were among those who gathered. Persistent rain, which soaked many of the area observances, forced the ceremony inside the truck bay of station No. 2.

In Tarpon Springs, the weather drove a crowd of 300 inside the Heritage Center at Craig Park. But the rain was fitting, said Tarpon Springs Mayor Frank DiDonato, because America was crying.

Among the crowd were 125 squirmy fifth-graders from Tarpon Spring Elementary, who wore red, white and blue and carried little flags. They stood and shivered when Tarpon Springs High School senior Romando Mathis sang God Bless America.

When it was over, they filed out into Craig Park with the rest of the crowd.

The rain was falling harder, but almost everyone stayed until the end, when Tarpon Springs firefighter of the year Andrew Kuhn climbed onto the ladder basket of a wet red firetruck and tossed a memorial wreath onto the rippling waters of Spring Bayou.

Not all area observances were quite as solemn. In Carrollwood Wednesday evening, about 3,000 people on motorcycles gathered at Tampa Harley-Davidson, a dealership on N Dale Mabry, and planned to drive in formation to the St. Pete Times Forum.

One woman, dressed as the Statue of Liberty and seated aboard a Harley-Davidson Road King, said the attacks had saddened her immensely.

"I'm very hurt that a terrorist is trying to take away all that we've built," said Karen Hoke, 50, of St. Petersburg.

In Citrus County, residents gathered outside the Old Historic Courthouse in downtown Inverness for an hourlong remembrance ceremony.

"We cannot turn back the clock of time, but we must never forget that tragic day," County Fire Services director Mike Schlaudraff told the crowd. "As Americans, we must continue to hold our heads high with pride to show other countries and the terrorists that we are the strongest, proudest nation on our planet."

The Citrus High School marching band played You're a Grand Old Flag as the audience clapped in time. The mournful echo of Taps, played by a lone bugler, brought the ceremony to a close.

-- Times staff writers Kelley Benham, Theresa Blackwell, Jennifer Goldblatt, Lorri Helfand, Carrie Johnson, Tamara Lush and Will Van Sant contributed to this report.

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