Rise St. Pete 9/11 memorial sculpture groundbreaking set

ST. PETERSBURG – The Warehouse Arts District will host a groundbreaking for Rise St. Pete Saturday, Nov. 10, 10 a.m., at Fifth Avenue South and 22nd Street in St. Petersburg.

Rise St. Pete will be a monument and park that will serve as a poignant tribute to the 9/11 first responders and to the resiliency and strength of a nation that united together to rebuild after the tragedy. The groundbreaking will take place during the Veterans Day weekend to honor veterans affected by 9/11, the first responders to the attacks, those still fighting as a result of 9/11, and the honoring of communities that persevere through dark times.

The concept for Rise St. Pete developed when a steel beam from the World Trade Center was recovered from underneath America’s Response Monument at the National September 11th Memorial Museum in New York City and given to the owners of American Freedom Distillery.

Located in the Warehouse Arts District of St. Petersburg, American Freedom Distillery is owned by former special operators that played instrumental roles in the American response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and who now reside in Tampa Bay. Mark Nutsch, one of the partners, was the commander of a team of Green Berets that fought the Taliban while mounted on horseback.

Being a member of the Warehouse Arts District Association, the partners of American Freedom Distillery found a natural and organic collaboration emerge with WADA leaders to create a permanent tribute in the district using the steel beam as the centerpiece. Working with Diane Morton, WADA executive director, they secured a vacant parcel on the corner of Fifth Avenue South and 22nd Street that will become the location for Rise St. Pete. Just like the 9/11 first responders who have now retired or moved on with new business endeavors, the location embodies a community in transition and growth.

“WADA is honored to give the Rise St. Pete memorial a home,” said Morton in a press release. “We understand the transformative, healing power of art, and know the impact this monument will have on residents, visitors, and the hundreds of thousands of active and retired first responders and military personnel who call Tampa Bay home.”

When completed, Rise St. Pete will be a 20’ x 40’ monument with the WTC steel as its central focus. Designed by Mark Aeling of MGA Sculpture Studios, the monument and park will become a gathering place, spurring conversation and reflection by visitors of all ages.

An interactive fountain will surround the iron, and it will be guarded by a dramatic wing made from copper that was recovered during the recent renovation of the Statue of Liberty. The wing is indicative of a community rising and transitioning in new paths of growth.

Encompassing the memorial will be a blue tile arch, made locally at the Morean Center for Clay, and four trees – symbolic of the Callery Pear Tree that endured the attacks on the World Trade Center and became known as “The Survivor Tree.” Aeling wanted to create a monument that pays tribute to the past while providing a sense of hope for the future.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be selected to create this monument. Like a phoenix rises from the ashes ‘Rise’ is all about rebirth, looking forward as a community while honoring our past,” said Aeling.

Visit risestpete.org.

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