Local gallery holds annual 9/11 event to honor the fallen first responders and victims of the attacks.
On the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, officers with the Ormond Beach Police Department stepped outside the station by the flagpole and held a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m.
“It’s a moment of sorrow," Police Chief Jesse Godfrey said. "It’s a moment of pain, and it is a moment of fear.”
Godfrey was one of the speakers featured at Ocean Art Gallery 9/11 remembrance event on Friday, Sept. 11. Gallery Owner Frank Gromling holds the event every year, and though he had to make a few adjustments due to COVID-19, Gromling said the event will always continue as long as he's alive. It's about honoring the 3,000 lives that were lost that day in 2001, and the estimated 4,000 others that have died in the subsequent years due to health issues linked to the attacks.
As Americans, Gromling said, we have to remain vigilant to keep the freedoms of this country.
“There are no other people that have the rights and freedoms that we have — none,” he said.
Retired U.S. Navy Capt. William Toti, a 9/11 Pentagon survivor, shared his story during the event as well. Toti was working inside the Pentagon when the plane crashed into the building, and spent hours trying to help the injured in the aftermath.
The Plantation Bay resident called the Pentagon the "forgotten 9/11."
"When I say I’m a 9/11 survivor, people immediately assume I was in New York," Toti said. "People seem to forget there was a 9/11 in the Pentagon and there was a 9/11 sadly with no survivors in Pennsylvania.”
Since 9/11, he said he's suffered from a lung condition he believes was caused from breathing in the air at the Pentagon during the attack. While there are studies that keep track of the development of health issues for 9/11 survivors of the World Trade Center, Toti said there are none for the Pentagon survivors.
When the Pentagon stopped burning in the days after 9/11, he was put in charge of the Navy's recovery effort for bodies. The images are seared into his brain, he said.
And it's what led him to photography. His works are displayed at Ocean Art Gallery, located at 197 E. Granada Boulevard.
“See, art is therapy," Toti said. "When you’re in a place like this gallery, surrounded by such beautiful paintings, it’s hard to remember there’s such ugliness in the world.”
The event concluded with a recording of bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace."