West Orange is home to three pieces of the World Trade Center.
In the years since 9/11, leaders in Winter Garden, Ocoee and Windermere all decided to install and dedicate memorials in their respective municipalities.
When John Williamson heard the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York was offering communities a chance to obtain a piece of history in 2010, the then-fire chief for the Winter Garden Fire Department sent a letter requesting a section of steel that was once part of the World Trade Center in New York City.
His request was granted, and he gathered a group of men — local police officers, firefighters and residents — to drive to John F. Kennedy International Airport to pick up the four-foot-long, 701-pound I-beam and bring it to its new home.
In September 2011, the four volunteers left for New York: Winter Garden Fire Battalion Chief Brian Sanders; Winter Garden police Detective James Cox, who drove his truck; Winter Garden resident Jimmy Brown, who was an NYC firefighter stationed with Company 10 across the street from the WTC in 2001 and was among the first rescuers to enter the tower; and Belle Isle police officer Tren Trendafilov, a friend of Brown.
The piece of steel traveled from New York to Florida on the truck bed, draped with an American flag. It arrived at Winter Garden City Hall and was transported inside the Commission Chambers, where it was displayed during the city’s Remembrance 9/11 Tribute.
The historic piece eventually was moved and is on permanent display in a 9/11 memorial in the small park at Main and Cypress streets adjacent to the Fire Department Headquarters. The city held a dedication ceremony on Sept. 11, 2015, and speaking were WGHF chaplain Joshua Sauers, Fire Chief Matt McGrew, Mayor John Rees, Deputy Police Chief Bill Sullivan, police chaplain Ray Minger and Brown.
Brown, Cox, Sanders and Trendafilov unveiled the memorial, which sits on a black granite pedestal.
Windermere resident Jeff Cox, then 15, was looking for a meaningful Eagle Scout project in 2009 when he learned the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was giving communities pieces of the World Trade Center rubble. With the help of the town of Windermere and Boy Scout Troop 6, Cox secured a steel beam nearly 4 feet long and 650 pounds.
He designed a memorial monument with the assistance of engineers and architects, who donated their services. The black granite memorial is 8 feet tall and includes 90 ceramic tiles around the base that were painted by Central Florida scouts and represent the countries of all the people who died in the 9/11 attacks.
The 9/11 Memorial stands in a quiet area behind Windermere Town Hall, 520 Main St., next to the Windermere Library. It has benches, trees and a path leading up to the steel piece. The memorial dedication was held Feb. 20, 2010. Scouts from Troop 6 rode through town with the Patriot Guard before stopping at the monument. Guest speakers included several people who lost family members Sept. 11.
A primary plaque describes the attacks and the memorial. A second plaque recognizes Cox, Troop 6 and then-Mayor Gary Bruhn.
In 2011, Cox received the National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.
The city of Ocoee was one of many municipalities to request a piece of steel from the wreckage of the fallen World Trade Center buildings in New York City.
In 2013, the city held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially dedicate a small but important piece at its fire station on West Road. The square section is part of a 9/11 memorial designed and built by FX Design Group in Ocoee. The steel beam portion of the illuminated display is removable and can be taken to schools for hands-on education of the 9/11 tragedy.
The memorial includes a proclamation the city issued calling Sept. 11 “a day of prayer, remembrance and rededication to patriotism and love for our country that will be recognized forever.”
The memorial typically is on display in the lobby of Ocoee Fire Station 25, 563 S. Bluford Ave.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.