Skies over Zephyrhills serve as a tribute for 20th anniversary of attacks
Flags flew high over Zephyrhills this morning as skydivers from Skydive City took part in the global “Flags in the Air” event in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the deadly Sept. 11 attacks.
Spectators line the fence and filled bleachers and looked to the overcast sky to see flags, streamers and tandem jumpers to turn the vision into a reality. Organizer Patrick Fortune, a professional skydiving photographer, U.S. Air Force veteran and former First Responder, saw this event in his head several months ago and watched it come to life in front of his eyes.
Fortune spread his vision across the globe and skydiving drop zones on three continents joined in the event to coordinate flag jumps with the times of the attacks.
“The vision came true with a lot of help,” Fortune said. “It hasn’t hit me yet. It is such an emotional situation. I am waiting to see the videos from across the globe. It will be amazing.”
The amazing feat is the “Flag in the Air” event took place at 40 drop zones on three continents. In Europe, the Cypres Demo Team in Germany attempted a world record with the largest flag ever carried by skydivers at more than 32,000 square feet.
“That tells you how much this really means, not only to us in America, but the world,” Fortune said. “When September 11 happened, it changed the world. Everything we do since then has repercussions from those attacks.”
Fortune’s efforts of “Never Forget” proved to be successful.
Skydiver Pascal Collard, who also serves as the CEO of the Sara VandeBerg Tennis Center, was part of the team to participate in the skies over Zephyrhills.
“To be able to do this here today,” Collard said. “It is huge. You see the flag in the air and there is nothing close to that feeling.”
Part of the event was tandem jumps for local first responders and Zephyrhills Police K-9 officer Lorenzo Limoges, jumped at the opportunity to plunge from 13,500 with a tandem instructor.
“It was amazing,” Limoges said. “To be able to do this on this day just fills me with respect for those who rushed into those buildings. They ran in with no fear, knowing they may not make it out. Out of respect for them, that is why we participate in events like this.
“I remember September 11. When those buildings collapsed, I just thought of all those people in those stairwells. It means a lot to me. Whether you are in a little town like Zephyrhills or a big city like New York, it is tough to do our job as a first responder. We will never forget.”