City of Morris to have a part in Key West 9/11 ceremony

Flag that will be placed on underwater memorial donated by City of Morris

MORRIS – The city of Morris will play a big part in a 9/11 anniversary ceremony in Key West, Florida.

The 40-by-30-foot flag that previously flew over the 9/11 memorial in Morris has been donated to Key West and will be placed underwater on the deck of the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg off Key West in the heart of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Scott Belt, a 13th Circuit Court judge and former city attorney for Morris, will travel to Key West and speak on behalf of Mayor Chris Brown and former Mayor Richard Kopczick, neither of whom is able to make the trip.

“It sounds like it is going to be a great ceremony,” Belt said. “They are doing one at the Key West Firehouse Museum and then out at the ship. There has been a flyover approved with Navy helicopters.”

The project intends to place two donated sculptures made of concrete and actual pieces of the World Trade Center on the 20th anniversary of the attacks. One sculpture will be placed at the Key West Firehouse Museum, 1024 Grinnell St. in Key West, Florida.

On Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks, a remembrance ceremony will be held underwater on the wreck. A remembrance ceremony also will be held at the Firehouse Museum. The 40-by-30-foot giant American flag, donated by the city of Morris and Kopczick and Brown, will be hung from the superstructure of the shipwreck and unfurled over the sculpture on the morning of Sept. 11 as a memorial.

“We laid out the flag in my backyard, and it was huge,” Belt said. “It took quite a few people to fold it. It’s already been shipped and will be there when I arrive.”

Belt also said that three patches, donated by officers of the New York Police Department, New York Port Authority and New York Fire Department, will be attached to the flag before it is placed on the wreck.

The owners of the commercial scuba diving fleet of Key West have agreed to schedule their boats to go to the Vandenberg Wreck on the morning of 9/11. Seats for the trip remain available. A video of the event and photographs will be taken. It is hoped that over 100 scuba divers will participate.

Flag: The giant 40-by-30-foot American flag flew over the 9/11 memorial in Morris and was donated to this project by Kopczick and Brown.

Sculptures: The sculptures, part of Lee County artist Sandra Priest’s “911 Up” sculpture project have been donated and are valued at $200,000 apiece. Other sculptures from the “911 Up” series are featured in several museums and memorials around the country. Priest is represented locally by 7 Artists & Friends Gallery, 213 Simonton St. in Key West, Florida. Sculptures by Priest made from pieces of the World Trade Center are available in sizes smaller than the 8-ton versions in Key West. Text or call gallerist Jennifer Badry at 305-304-0546 for details or to see the art.

Rob Oesterle

Rob Oesterle

Rob has been a sports writer for the Morris Herald-News and Joliet Herald-News for more than 20 years. He is currently also writing news for the Morris Herald-News.