Twenty years has not dimmed Ophelia Beier’s memory of 9/11.
Beier of Palm Coast is a survivor of the attack on the Pentagon. She was running to her office that morning when she heard a voice in her head.
It told her to turn around and go back.
Shaken and confused, she ran in the opposite direction. Five minutes later, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the building, just where Beier had been standing.
Beier was an Army financial analyst at the time. Thirty-four of Beier’s co-workers died in the attack. Only three survived.
“I was just running for my life. ... I wondered why my life was spared.”
OPHELIA BEIER, 9/11 Pentagon survivor
“I was just running for my life,” Beier recounted during the City of Palm Coast’s 9/11 Memorial Ceremony on Sept. 11 at Heroes Memorial Park. “I made it to South Parking. I wondered why my life was spared.”
Beier, Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin and former New York State court officer Major Ronald Young were featured speakers at the evening ceremony.
The ceremony included the dedication of the 9/11 Survivor Tree seedling.
Less than a month after the terrorist attacks, a badly damaged Callery pear tree was discovered buried in the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York.
The tree was nursed back to health and replanted in 2010 at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Seedlings of the now thriving tree have been given to communities around the world. The St. Augustine Fire Department received two seedlings with instructions to donate one to a sister city. The department chose Palm Coast.
Jerry Forte, Palm Coast’s fire chief and interim assistant city manager, thanked St. Augustine Fire Chief Carlos Aviles for the seedling, which has been planted at Heroes Memorial Park across the courtyard from the city’s 9/11 memorial.
“Today the tree stands as a reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth,” Beier said.
Beier, Mayor Alfin and Young took part in dedicating the Survivor Tree seedling. Joining them were Palm Coast Fire Department driver/engineer Michael LaGreca, who was an EMT in New Jersey on 9/11 and treated survivors who were brought over on boats; and Yvonne Robinson, who was in the North Tower when the first plane hit.
Following the dedication, Robinson sang Amazing Grace. The ceremony also included a musical tribute by four members of the Flagler Youth Orchestra; placement of a memorial wreath by City Council Member Eddie Branquinho and Interim Fire Chief Kyle Berryhill; and the bell toll “striking of the four fives” by retired Fire Department Capt. Joseph Masters.
After the benediction, Fire Department Lt. Patrick Juliano, who organized the ceremony, played a bagpipe tribute.
Beier said every Sept. 11 she thinks about her co-workers who died in the attack and finds herself reflecting on the past year.
“It takes the support of good friends, family and neighbors to give us hope,” she said.