Memorials to 9-11 victims help mark anniversary in South Florida

When Miramar Fire Capt. John Zimmerman watched the Twin Towers fall, taking with them 343 New York City firefighters who had rushed up the stairwells to save those trapped and helpless in the inferno, he was overcome by a wash of emotions — anger, sadness, shock and disbelief.

And he knew he had to do something.

Zimmerman and his colleagues at Miramar Fire Station No. 100 took a $20 piece of metal pipe, some concrete screws, a pair of firefighter's boots and an American flag and mounted a makeshift memorial on Interstate 75's Miramar Parkway overpass.

"The flag needed to fly proudly for everyone to see," Zimmerman said.

Nine years later, that simple, eloquent tribute remains.

It was South Florida's first lasting South Florida memorial to the 2,979 men and women who died on Sept. 11, 2001 — nine years ago this coming Saturday. But certainly not the last.

"The pain cannot be erased from our collective memory," said Pembroke Pines artist Ben Menasche. "We have to ensure that future generations will also not forget."

For the past four years Menasche and fellow local artist Felix Gonzalez have labored inside a warehouse along U.S. 27. creating steel and marble statues that will be part of a September 11 monument the city plans to unveil during next year's 10th anniversary.

Working with a two-ton block of white marble, Menasche has carved his impressions of how life has progressed since the attacks. From the first image, showing witnesses, their mouths agape in agony, it proceeds through a series of panels to a final one showing individuals holding hands and rebuilding the towers.

"We must rebuild, but never forget," said Menasche, whose son Jacques, a professional journalist, was near the World Trade Center when the planes struck. He shot photos that he eventually published in a book called 11: Witnessing the World Trade Center. Menasche's marble statue will serve as the base for a piece of steel girder salvaged from the Twin Towers and donated by New York City.

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