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Lovegrove, Southwest Floridians reflect on 9/11 anniversary

By Staff | Sep 13, 2011

Singing "God Bless America" at the conclusion of Sunday's "Remember 9/11 Tenth Year" program are, from left, Amy Bennett Williams, Leoma Lovegrove, Mandy Connell, Sandra Stilwell and Joseph A. Andujar, Jr.

More than 450 people filled the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater on Sunday morning, witnessing a special program of personal remembrances, artistic interpretations and somber ceremonies on the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks which forever changed the United States.

“Remember 9/11 Tenth Year,” a program conceived and hosted by local artist Leoma Lovegrove, included poetry readings, video presentations, a flag folding ceremony and a musical performances by Nena and Rissa Arias as well as the Lee County Pipes & Drums Band.

Lovegrove, who operates an art gallery in the Tree Tops Center on Sanibel, completed work on her patriotic rendition of an American bald eagle on flight, adding gloriously glowing colors of yellow, orange and blue to a gigantic 10-foot by 18-foot canvas on the Broadway Palm’s stage.

Originally, Lovegrove had planned to paint the eagle on top of an identically-sized canvas, which contained the names of victims of the 9/11 attacks, painted by members of the Southwest Florida community during the months leading up to the historic anniversary.

But according to event emcee Carley Wegner, host of Fox 4’s “Morning Blend,” those names became so sacred that the artist could not paint over them. Instead, she decided to complete a second painting, which she spent much of Sunday’s program adding a few final touches.

Lovegrove also shared with the crowd her recollection of Sept. 11, 2001. She and her husband, Mike Silberg, were spending time with his family in Michigan when they heard the news.

Before they departed, Lovegrove remembered getting a hug from her mother-in-law, who added, “I don’t know when we’ll be together again.”

After Silberg read his poem, entitled “9/11,” guest speakers Amy Bennett Williams, Sandra Stilwell, Mandy Connell and Jason Maughan each shared their memories of the dramatic events which unfolded a decade earlier.

“I am proud to have lived through a moment when America was at its lowest, but I got to witness America at its best,” said Connell, former host of WINK News Radio’s “Daybreak.”

Maughan, an attorney from Sanibel, offered his perspective being an immigrant from Ireland and how much he values his role as “the personification of the American dream.”

“I am often reminded, as an adopted son of this country, how fortunate we all are to live here,” said Maughan. “Thank God for the U.S.A.”

The program also included a video profiling Deputy Chief Joseph A. Andujar, Jr., a former motorcycle officer with the New York Police Department. Andujar, a member the NYPD’s 1013 Retired Police Organization, received a standing ovation from the crowd prior to presenting an American flag – which flew above “Ground Zero” – to representatives of the Association of Flight Attendants Union for their service to our country during the tragic events on Sept. 11, 2001.

Lovegrove and her gathered patriots offered a somber rendition of “God Bless America,” joined by the entire audience in song, before the Lee County Pipes & Drums Band closed the program with “Amazing Grace.”

The artist said prior to the program that she plans on submitting the commemorative paintings to the Alliance of the Arts. She is hoping they will become a part of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.

And, like the eagle Lovegrove created, “We are all still free… we are all still flying. The proof of that is we’re all here today.”