A Wall of Names Tells Emotional Stories

The 9/11 Traveling Memorial Wall is an emotional tribute to the first responders who perished on September 11, 2001, and the military operations that followed. Staged as a sacred space in the Ocala-Marion County Veterans Memorial Park, the pathway is lined with flowers and memorial wreaths. Hundreds of American flags placed in front of the memorial stones flutter in the soft breeze. The black stones are engraved with nearly three thousand names of the police officers, firefighters, and soldiers lost on that fateful day and the subsequent wars that the United States waged.

Sgt. Eric Hooper, Honor Guard Commander of the Ocala Police Department, estimated that the opening ceremony on September 11th attracted 250-300 people. Educational tours will be given on September 12th and 13th, and the organizers will also have fire and police department equipment, demonstrations and displays, such as the Marion County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad unit.

A pair of firefighter axes from the site, as well as a New York Fire Department uniform and boots—once occupied by a fallen hero—are a solemn testament to the human spirit. The new Marion County Veterans Exhibit and Education Center is also participating with a temporary exhibit that includes loaned items such as a piece of the tower, artworks, and personal memorabilia.

Motorcycle units from the Florida Highway Patrol, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and the Ocala Police Department escorted the memorial down 441 through downtown Ocala to the park. The motorcade began at War Horse Harley-Davidson and its size caught Hooper by surprise. “This is amazing. We have literally hundreds of bikes that have shown up today.”

Additionally, Hooper’s antique police cars from his collection dot the park including a 1967 Ford Galaxie, and a 1977 Chevy Nova, all decked out in black and white paint jobs and law enforcement decals and paint jobs. Hiers-Baxley Funeral Service is displaying a specially decorated hearse to honor those who served.

In addition to the exhibits, food trucks Cora’s Kitchen, Manny’s Pork, Kona Ice, and Bruster’s Real Ice Cream offers up snacks and meals.

Ocala Style partnered with the organizers to record the motorcade from its start at War Horse Harley-Davidson to the Veterans Park.

We also covered the opening ceremony live for Facebook and Instagram; http://bit.ly/2m8I2jv

The memorial will be open 24 hours a day through 5pm, September 15th.

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