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Let The Freedom Bell Ring Two-Day Event

Danielle Freeman

 A ceremony to cast the Freedom Bell, which will hang on The Veterans Tribute Tower of Northwest Florida, was held today  at Uptown Station in Ft. Walton Beach. WUWF’s Danielle Freeman reports, this event was the first of many scheduled through Thursday, September 11th.

Veterans from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the War on Terror, gathered alongside activity duty service members to take part in the casting of the Freedom Bell. They lined up in front of the Verdin Company’s mobile foundry and one by one, passed bronze ingots into the foundry furnace. The ingots slowly will be heated to 2200 degrees, beginning the process of forming the bell.

Bill Zuppa , The President of the Veteran’s Tribute Tower Board says this is a monumental beginning to the two-day event, " They’re going to pour the liquid bronze into the mold. It has to sit overnight to cool off and then at 6 o’clock tomorrow morning the chaplains from different churches in the area will be by and they’re going to bless the bell."

Zuppa, who’s a veteran himself, says after the sunrise blessing, the bell needs about four or five hours to cool and be cleaned after it’s broken out of its mold. Then it will be ready for the Dedication Ceremony on Thursday afternoon, " At 11 o’clock tomorrow, we’re going to have many dignitaries here in town, the governor’s expected, Don Gaetz from the Florida Senate is going to be here, and many other politicians. So, tomorrow will be the big event where we dedicate the bell then we’ll place the bell after the dedication on the bell mobile."

And, it’s no coincidence that the dedication of the Freedom Bell is taking place on September 11th.  Tom Rice is an Army Veteran and Vice President of the Veterans Tribute Tower, " We kind of reap the whirlwind of the global war on terror. Other areas knew that a plane crashed in Pennsylvania, the twin towers, you know, those events, the Pentagon, many people knew people who work at the Pentagon.

Rice says the timing of this week’s events are symbolic of the pivotal role this local military community has played in the nation’s defense, " Our community, it’s kind of like Pearl Harbor to us when that happened that started this global war on terror. Our community with special operations, with testing of all kinds of munitions, with AFSOC, with Rangers being trained, it has brought a closer reality of what war is all about."

Also in honor of the September 11 attacks, Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley is highlighting the role and sacrifices of the first responders to the 9-11 event during tomorrow morning’s Sunrise Service. During the early morning ceremony, the Freedom Bell will be removed from its mold and blessed.

The bell will be dedicated and rung for the first time in a ceremony to be held at 11:30 Thursday.  All events are taking place at Uptown Station near the Flag Pole and the public is encouraged to attend.