Among the must-haves for your local St. Patrick’s Day parade is the gleaming iconography of the firefighter, the polished axes, the mustachioed swagger, the spotted dog. But sometimes lost is the idea that the men and women waving from the truck would, without hesitation, stand between you and mortal danger.
This weekend in Fort Lauderdale, you’ll have the opportunity to reflect on that theme inside the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit, a 1,000-square-foot rolling museum of Ground Zero artifacts and memories that will take part in the city’s Las Olas Boulevard parade on Saturday and then sit on the Riverside Hotel lawn through Sunday afternoon.
The 53-foot, NASCAR-style expanding trailer was unveiled Sept. 11, 2013, by the New York-based Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which sponsors a popular downtown Fort Lauderdale 5K that raises money to build “smart” homes for triple and quadruple amputees returning from military service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A primary audience for the display — which includes educational panels, video, recordings of radio transmissions and items from the rubble of the World Trade Center that were keepsakes from individual New York fire stations — is children.
“It was our understanding that children were learning little or nothing about 9/11,” foundation spokeswoman Catherine Christman says. “We wanted to ensure that schoolchildren understood what happened on that day and the ramifications going forward … on their whole lifetime, in terms of foreign policy.”
While the journey from Ground Zero to Iraq to Afghanistan is a complicated thicket of politics, the story of Stephen Siller and his sacrifice on 9/11 is simple, and defines the term “hero.”
Siller was an off-duty NYFD firefighter who was headed home to his wife and five children on Staten Island after a night shift when his scanner alerted him to the terrorist attacks. He turned his pickup around and was seen running nearly two miles through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel with 75 pounds of gear strapped to his back. He was picked up on the other side by a fire crew and transported to West and Liberty streets, near Ground Zero. There his trail ended.
A replica sculpture of Siller sprinting to the scene (the original is at the Fire Academy in New York) and a damaged Ground Zero street sign marked “Liberty St.” are among the museum artifacts, says Christman, who is Siller’s cousin.
One of the reasons the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit will visit South Florida this weekend is the response the Siller run has gotten since its 2011 debut in Fort Lauderdale, where 3,000 participants raised $76,000, the most of the 30 cities taking part outside of New York that year.
“The folks at the Tunnel to Towers Foundation have been touched and gratified by the support the people of Fort Lauderdale have shown their Tunnel to Towers Run,” Christman says. “So when we decided to bring [the museum] to cities we knew would embrace it, we needed to look no farther than Fort Lauderdale.”
Admission is free for the museum, where you’ll find information on the foundation’s smart-home project, and registration forms for the local 2014 Siller run on Sept. 13 (info: Tunnel2Towers.org).
The Fort Lauderdale St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival is 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, with the annual family-friendly Running of the Leprechauns at 11 a.m. and the parade at noon. Music, food and drink, and children’s activities can be found at Huizenga Plaza. Info: 954-828-5985, FtLaudIrishFest.com.
Other major South Florida St. Pat’s events take place this weekend, a week ahead of the holiday, the argument goes, to accommodate top Irish entertainers who will be busy in New York and Boston March 15-17.
The massive Irish Fest on Flagler in downtown West Palm Beach is too big for a single day, with a Saturday-Sunday lineup that ranges from the Young Wolf Tones and the even more youthful Screaming Orphans to veterans Noel Kingston and Paddy Noonan, and local favorites Fire in the Kitchen. Hours: noon-11 p.m. Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $5, 13 and younger free. Info: IrishFlorida.org.
Hollywood’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival is noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, with the parade along Hollywood Boulevard and Harrison Street at 1 p.m. and a stage at 19th Avenue and Hollywood featuring Gaelic Storm and the U2 tribute band UV. Info: StPatricksParade.com.
Looking ahead, Delray Beach’s 46th annual parade and other festivities are March 14-15 (StPatrickParade.com); St. Pat’s is a three-day affair March 14-17 at Murphy’s Law at the Hard Rock in Hollywood (TheMurphysLaw.com); and the Dubliner block party in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park is March 17 (Facebook.com/DublinerBoca).
Funky Buddha Brewery of Oakland Park and Hallandale Beach-based Opus Ales will be among the locals lining up beers alongside brands from New Belgium, Founder’s, Green Flash, Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn Brewery and Shiner at the Sprung! spring craft beer festival on Saturday from 3 to 7 p.m. in Coconut Grove’s Peacock Park. The event, which includes food, live music and games (from corn hole and beer pong to mega Twister), drew nearly 5,000 people last year. Tickets start at $40 ($5 off with coupon code "FLORIBREW5" at IGotSprung.com). Info: 305-461-2700. Facebook.com/IgotSprung.
Some of your (our) favorite local models — including Lisa Morales and Andrea Ocampo Haley — are using their considerable powers for good as the philanthropy group Miami Model Citizens, who will gather 9-11 p.m. Saturday for the Beauties for the Beasts Swimwear Calendar signing party at Hyde Beach at the SLS Hotel on Miami Beach. The event benefits Miami-based Paws 4 You Rescue (Paws4You.org). If you can’t make it, know that Morales, Ocampo and fellow Citizen Damaris Aguiar will make an appearance at 2 p.m. March 22 at Books & Books in Coral Gables (go to BooksandBooks.com). Info: MiamiModelCitizens.com.