It's a project more than 13 years in the making, but on Friday, the Freedom Memorial honoring more than 3,000 9/11 victims and first-responders in Collier County's Freedom Park was unveiled.
It was emotional day as hundreds were on hand, including county and city leaders, veterans, firefighters, and police officers.
"You think that it would get easier over time, it doesn't get any easier. It seems to...your heart aches more," said Jeffrey Schmidt, a former New York City Fireman.
The $2 million project was first discussed in 2003 and fundraising started the next year, but donations were slowed due to the recession in 2008. It wasn't until a gala last February where $1.3 million was raised to turn the concept into a reality.
But on Friday, nearly 15 years after hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and in a Pennsylvania field, the memorial is finally complete.
"I'm speechless at times. You see this on paper all these years, but then when you finally see the finished product, it's amazing," Sandford said. "To remember everybody that was killed innocently killed 15 years ago."
One of the people who's worked on the project since the beginning is Jerry Sanford, a former New York City and Collier County fireman.
He says he hopes this becomes a place for reflection and serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made, as well as a history lesson -- especially for the younger and future generations.
"This is going to be here for years and years and years. My grandchildren, my children's grandchildren, their grandchildren...it's going to just continue on," said William Carl, the president of the Collier County Veteran's Council.
"They didn't have to stay there, they could have chose to run, but they chose to stay there and give up their life," Schmidt said.
Big Island Builders honors those lost 15 years ago today. Visit the monument located on Golden Gate Parkway, just east of Goodlette Rd. It is a place to reflect on the sacrifices made that day in 2001.
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