They also cleaned yards and picked up leaves, trees stumps and branches as Michael Jackson and Journey played on the radio. Students from the Miami Job Corps Center cut wood to make benches, picnic tables and a butterfly garden.
Dustin Lewis, a U.S. Marine and Army veteran, helped put together the edges of a hedge garden of coco plums. The gardens will have lantanas, vegetable seeds and bougainvilleas in the middle as a memorial.
“I’m surprised to see this many people,” Lewis said. “They motivate me. If they can change the yard work, they can change the way I am.”
Judy Lee, a volunteer from American Express, didn’t have any painting experience, but was motivated by her five brothers – all veterans.
“Whatever we can do for the veterans, we should do for them,” Lee said. “They were here for us and we need to be there for them.”
At Keystone Halls, counselors provide housing and a two-year program to help addicts become independent and rebuild their lives. With the help of the Department of Veteran Affairs and counselors like Donna Hedgepeth, veterans build their credit scores, get their driver’s licenses and find permanent jobs.
At the annual 9/11 Ceremony of Remembrance at Tropical Park, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told the crowd never to forget the “72 selfless law enforcement officers” and “343 brave firefighters” who lost their lives at the World Trade Center.
With a giant American flag flying between the ladders of two fire trucks, Fred Maas, chief of the Sunny Isles Beach Police Department, began reading the long list of first responders who never made it home that day.
In a booming voice, Maas began: “Sgt. John Coughlin.” He ended with firefighter Patrick Lyons. Then, he added: “The list goes on.”
Sunny Isles Beach police Capt. Dwight Snyder continued the list. He ended with Father Mychael Judge.
“It really hits home when you hear all the names,” said William Bryson, fire chief of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. “I heard names of people who could be father and son. There were a lot of Irish names.”
Several of the people in attendance, including Gimenez and Bryson, had gone to the World Trade Center site just days after the attacks to search for life and help in anyway they could.
Bryson recalled the story of a firefighter pulled from the wreckage. Everyone just stopped and saluted in silence as the body was taken away.
In 2009, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey began authorizing the release of artifacts from the World Trade Center collapse to agencies around the country with the condition that they be displayed to the public.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue received two pieces of steel last year. The first was put on display at its headquarters for the 10th anniversary.
The second piece had been in the office at Station No. 3, which houses the only two red fire units with FDNY markings within its fleet.
Capt. Gabe Nemeth said when people came to have their blood pressure checked, they would comment on the cool piece of steel. The station crew decided the beam needed to be displayed more prominently.
Ross Brown, 62, heard about the unveiling and showed up dressed head to toe in patriotic clothing. “I was crushed when the attacks happened – it was a Tuesday just like today,” he said.
Brown was born and raised on Long Island and over the years had brought friends and family to the top of the towers about 10 times.
“I have a shrine of the World Trade Center at home,” he said. “I am so glad I will be able to see a piece of it again.”
This report was supplemented with material from The Associated Press.