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With pride and prayer

The second anniversary of the tragedy is noted in a wide range of remembrances.

By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 12, 2003

TAMPA - In ways big and small on Thursday, Tampa remembered.

Some people memorialized the second anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks with silence. Others fired rifles and sang hymns. Some turned to God. Others hopped on motorcycles and hit the open road.

But thousands of people, in ways as varied as America itself, took time to look back.

At 8:42 a.m., the clock tower at the top of City Hall rang four times. Hundreds of office workers stood in silence a block away in Lykes Gaslight Park.

The only other sound was the chirping of birds, the sway of a breeze and the crank of a truck pulling onto the street. Downtown laborers had slipped outside before the work day began.

They held steaming coffee cups in their hands, and a wave of employees wearing city identification badges stood to hear the mayor, the fire chief and the chief of police speak.

Paramedic Roger Picard stood nearby with his yellow Labrador, Jessie. The pair had spent a week working in New York shorty after the terrorist attacks.

As he listened, Picard said, he felt a swell of pride about his city and its leaders.

"I had a smile," he said. "You couldn't see it, but I had a smile."

A paper-white dove streaked across the clear blue sky moments after a rifle salute as more than 100 people looked on at Veterans Memorial Park in Tampa.

A lone bugler played taps. A chorus of bagpipes belted out Amazing Grace and God Bless America.

At 9:43 a.m., the moment that the Pentagon was struck, the crowd fell silent, and a bell tolled four times in memory of those who died.

Col. Brian T. Kelly, commander of the 6th Operations Group at MacDill Air Force Base, told the gathering about his days working in the Pentagon and how he felt upon learning about the attacks.

"Terrorists attacked my building," he said. "I very much admired the American spirit in the immediate aftermath.

"What I was watching was hope struggling against fear."

Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims led a lunch-hour interfaith prayer service at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in downtown Tampa.

About 60 people honored those who had fallen. They also prayed for the future.

"Guard and guide our leaders and all our peoples that, in our search for security, we may not trample the rights of the innocent nor disregard the rule of law," they prayed.

Then, another prayer that public reaction to the attacks would be one not of anger, but of a yearning for peace.

"No justice leads to no peace," they prayed.

Each leader, no matter his faith, offered a prayer to the congregation.

"God wants us to have faith in him," said Muhammad Sultan, the director and Imam for the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay. "He wants us to work together to establish good."

Along Bayshore Boulevard the Bayshore Patriots who regularly wave flags to support the troops had plenty of company about 4 p.m. Thursday. But it was nothing new for Rita Cash-Zvada, whose son has just returned from fighting in Iraq. An Iraqi civilian threw a rock at Staff Sgt. Charles Cash's left eye about a month ago and injured him, sending him back to MacDill Air Force Base and home to his mother.

"She kind of did me a favor," said Cash-Zvada, 53, of Tampa.

Since her son was deployed in March, Cash-Zvada said she has spent every week on Bayshore Boulevard with the Bayshore Patriots, waving the American flag and showing support for the troops. Though her son was safe at home, Cash-Zvada said Thursday she won't stop waving the flag until the last member of the military is back on American soil.

"We feel like all the troops are our kids," she said, standing among hundreds of flag wavers along Bayshore, clinching a homemade sign with a picture of her son, Cash, and the message, "USAF Support Our Troops."

Traffic backed up in both direction along Bayshore as motorists slowed to honk their horns and high-five some of the flag waivers. A sea of red, white and blue flags splashed across the road and into the median. American flags formed a canopy over the troop supporters.

Senior Airman Jennifer Harris, 28, with the 290th Joint Communications Support Squadron Air National Guard at MacDill, said the constant support has helped keep morale high among the troops.

"There's a lot of family support, especially on the base," said Harris, who is from New York. Five months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Harris said she was dancing on Broadway and working a temporary job as a clerk in World Trade Center Building No. 7.

"I used to take the subway there every day," she said. "I've heard a lot of survival stories from friends who were there when it happened."

They started their engines Thursday evening, and the earth trembled.

They had come by the thousands to meet along Dale Mabry Highway, on shiny bikes, on old bikes, on Harleys and Hondas, on bikes toting American flags, on bikes carrying tattooed men and shapely women, on bikes with attitude and thundering mufflers.

They wore leather and patriotic T-shirts with slogans like, "Proud to be an American." One guy brought his parrot, Spike. They cooked hot dogs and hamburgers. A few sipped beers.

And then they rode. To remember.

"We have big hearts," said Pam Peterson, a nurse from New Port Richey, as she surveyed the crowd. "I think this is representative of how the rest of the community feels. They just don't ride motorcycles."

The caravan seemed to stretch forever as it snaked 11 miles through the city, toward the finish at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The streets unfolded, one after another. The world passed, a sea of faces - old, young, black, white, Native American, Asian, African, Hispanic, Middle Eastern.

Somewhere amid the sea of horsepower, 54-year-old Manuel Guzman rode his 2003 Harley Softail, taking it all in. A Vietnam vet from Texas, Guzman is part Mexican, part Cherokee Indian, part Comanche Indian.

"When you look at America, you see everybody," he said, "a little of everything."

With that, he gunned the Harley. It rumbled underneath him, and the cheering faces passed in a blur. The sun was setting, and he smiled as the wind washed over him.

- Times staff writers David Karp, Kevin Graham and Rob Brannon contributed to this report.

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