Polk County marks 9/11 anniversary with a freedom walk

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More than 100 people gathered in Winter Haven Friday to remember all those who lost their lives in September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The event began with a 50-dove release followed by a Freedom Walk. After that, law enforcement, firefighters and military members from Polk County spoke about what that day was like and why it's important to hold ceremonies ilke this.

"We started preparing here at home for the attacks that might occur here because we had no idea whomight be next, what

targets might be next," Maj. Paul Baggett, with the Polk County Sheriff's, said afterward. "I think it's important that we never forget 9/11. The people that lost their lives -- almost 3,000 individuals, including the firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement officers -- so it's something that we should do every year."

Nancy Gutierrez, one of the members of the Polk County Honor Guard, remembers well the days that followed.

There were so many funerals that Honor Guard members in New York couldn't attend all of them, so Gutierrez and two others from Polk County traveled there to help.

"It was very emotional. Spending five days, trying to get to funerals, knowing how they died and not knowing what might happen while we were up there," Gutierrez said, adding she ended up going to seven memorials services.

"You'd go to one funeral and then you'd have to figure out how to get to the next one, whether you took the subway, the train, went by bus or however."  Fourteen years later she said, "it's very fresh in my mind knowing exactly where I was at when it happened."

And the emotions were still raw for others who attended the ceremony in downtown Winter Haven. Some couldn't hold back tears as they looked at the "Some Gave All" memorial, which is a traveling wall inscribed with the names of all those killed on 9/11 and in the wars that have followed.

The event was coordinated by the Polk County Veteran's Council, along with all of Polk County's fire departments and law enforcement agencies.