Twenty years after nearly 3,000 people died in the terrorist attacks in New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, the people of Gulfport haven’t forgotten. On September 11, 2021, a memorial ceremony was held outside the Gulfport Casino Ballroom.
Rain pushed the ceremony – spearheaded by resident Regina Buscemi, and cosigned by the City of Gulfport – indoors, and Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson and Gulfport Senior Center Foundation Office Manager Amy Oatley spoke to a crowd of flip-flop wearing mourners standing near the beach volleyball courts.
“As a teacher, I see kids who were not even alive 20 years ago,” Henderson said. “Those kids are our future, and it’s our responsibility to teach them about what happened on 9/11.”
Event organizer Buscemi, who lived in New York for more than half of her life, put the idea together to honor and unite the community.
“It took me four years to realize that I’m safe here in Gulfport,” Buscemi said. “There’s a community here…that’s what this day is about.”
Prior to the memorial, The Gulfport Senior Center asked for written memories of the event two decades ago from visitors.
The results, many of which referenced living up north, were read out loud to the crowd early Saturday morning.
Mary Stein: I was at work, early morning meetings were starting. Later, at a small lap pool, usually with great competition and jealousy for the lanes, an uber-fit swimmer offered to share a lane. We all felt like sharing lanes, we all did.
Mary Benanti: I was a journalist living in Fort Collins, Colorado on 9/11…I rushed to the newsroom, my assignment was tracking down our congressional representatives and senators in D.C. where a plane hit the Pentagon…I began calling all my sources and finally found our House Representative Bob Schaffer in a basement shelter in Washington D.C. and interviewed him.
Heidi Kirtland: I lived in Staunton, VA. I was getting a mammogram when the attack started. After I was done I headed to J.C. Penny where I worked. My manager was there behind his computer and said, “That will be a war.” Trust me, I was born in Germany and the word ‘war’ was enough to give you a panic attack. My son worked in Manhattan and I called him. He said he was one of the last ones to make it over the bridge before it closed. What a horrible day for all of us.
The Beam in Madeira Beach
Much like Gulfport, Madeira Beach held its own ceremony this year on Saturday, September 11 at 9 a.m.
The crowd gathered around a 800-pound piece of structural steel from the Twin Towers, which sits on Madeira Beach as part of the 9/11 memorial at Madeira Beach’s Causeway Park.
“(It was) proposed in 2009 by a Madeira Beach citizen whose son had recently read that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was issuing pieces from the World Trade Center Twin Towers to qualified institutions,” reads the city website. “Structural beams stored there ‘were there for the taking.’”
Most days, the memorial quietly sits in honor of those lost and their families, serving as a reminder every day of the tragedy and the community’s dedication to never forget.