Rise St. Pete, the city’s memorial to the lives lost on 9/11, was dedicated in a brief ceremony Sunday afternoon. A crowd of approximately 100 gathered near the intersection of 22nd Street and 5th Avenue South as the $500,000 project’s founders talked about its beginnings, and the process of bringing it to fruition. They also discussed the symbolism in the memorial’s design.
Scott Neil, a member of the first Special Operations force to engage in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 – the legendary Horse Soldiers – spearheaded Rise St. Pete in 2018. When a section of New York’s Ground Zero was being prepped for the installation of a Horse Soldier statue, a nine-foot piece of broken steel and concrete was discovered underground.
The two-ton beam, believed to be one of the last remaining pieces of structural World Trade Center steel, was given to Neil and his team, who were then in the process of relocating to St. Petersburg with their company, American Freedom Distillery.
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The recovered beam forms the centerpiece of the memorial, which is in the Warehouse Arts District. Sculptor Mark Aeling, president of the Warehouse Arts District Association, designed and crafted the 25-foot-tall copper bird’s wing that rises behind the beam, which is itself mounted on a stone pylon.
Neil and Aeling spoke during Sunday’s dedication, along with Ron Schlosser, treasurer of the nonprofit Rise St. Pete organization, and St. Petersburg Poet Laureate Helen Pruitt Wallace, whose poem Rise is carved into the pylon.
The memorial’s domed background – symbolizing the rising sun of a new day – features a mosaic of blue tiles created by local artists – and children.
“There’s going to have to be a lot of storytelling here for our children,” Neil said. “Because they have no emotion and no memory of what we experienced on 9-11.
“It’s up to us to come here and tell more stories. And the last project I would like to see come out of this is a website that has interviews – of citizens, of soldiers, of those people affected by 9-11. Because that will endure, along with this project.”
Rise St. Pete website
RISE will be a monument that serves as a symbol of America’s resiliency and will be dedicated to 9/11 community heroes, first responders, and all who have been affected by the events of that day. At the heart of the monument, RISE will feature one of the last pieces of World Trade Center steel to be recovered from ‘ground zero’ in New York City. The beam was unearthed during site preparations for America’s Response Monument ‘Horse Soldier Statue’ at the National September 11th Memorial Museum in New York City and given to the owners of American Freedom Distillery. This piece of steel was donated to the Warehouse Arts District Association by the Port Authority of New York in conjunction with the American Freedom Distillery who hired Sculptor Mark Aeling to design and build the monument.
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This Monument is a gift of American Freedom Distillery and The Warehouse Arts District Association and made possible through public and private donation. We broke ground on Veteran’s Day Weekend 2018 with plans for construction completion in early 2020. Your donations and in-kind construction/material donations help us bring this important tribute to downtown St. Petersburg.
Front View of RISE St. Pete
“As a phoenix rises from the ashes, RISE is all about rebirth. Looking forward as a community while honoring our past.”
– Mark Aeling, RISE, monument creator.