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Victor Valley College honors first responders at annual Patriot Day Ceremony

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Photo by Julio Manzo

VICTORVILLE — Victor Valley College’s annual Patriot Day Ceremony, which honors the memory of those who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and typically draws a few hundred attendees each year, was held with limited participants on Friday.

Though the campus remains closed to the public, a small number of staff, faculty, and participating students assembled around the United We Stand Monument next to the VVC Library, all wearing face masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines.

VVC’s Fire Academy 54 marched forward for the posting of colors, signaling the prompt 6:30 a.m. start of the ceremony, synchronous with the sunrise. 

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Associated Student Body (ASB) President Bridge Lee, Instructional Media Services Coordinator Tim Isbell delivered an invocation, quoting a “Prayer of Remembrance for 9/11” from Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago.

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Photo by Julio Manzo

“This date, 9/11, carries a heavy burden of memory. And it is right that it should not pass from our memory,” Isbell recited. “… with this prayer, [we] commit ourselves to those actions that will draw us closer to our most ancient and most holy desire, peace among all God’s children.”

Captain Heath Cohen, VVC’s Fire Technology Program Director, commended the fire academy students for choosing the career path, noting that “the events of 9/11 showed the world that we are very special people.”

“We are willing to risk our lives for others, we are willing to do what needs to be done. We care deeply,” Cohen said. “As you go about your daily routine, think about those firefighters who acted with courage, determination, and pride. They died doing something that mattered. Also think about the firefighters fighting the largest wildfires in California history.”

Heath Cohen
Photo by Julio Manzo

According to Cohen, 22 of the college’s part-time faculty have been assigned “to protect lives and property” from the devastating wildfires currently burning throughout the state. 

VVC Superintendent/President Dr. Dan Walden also spoke, remarking that the first responders mourned on the nineteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks “didn’t just lose their lives — they gave their lives.”

“We’re honoring not only those in 9/11 who lost and gave their lives, but also all of you who are going into these professions or already in this profession,” Walden said. “All of you are so brave and courageous to keep the rest of us safe, to keep us alive and to keep us well.”

Emergency Medical Services students presented a red, white, and blue floral wreath to lay in memory beside the United We Stand monument, which was designed by VVC student Joan Sowinski and dedicated in 2006. 

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Photo by Julio Manzo

On the hillside adjacent to the library are 3,023 American flags, arranged over the Labor Day weekend by volunteers, including ASB students and those in the administration of justice and nursing programs at VVC.

All of the flags have a card attached, each one with a different name on it — the names of the victims of Sept. 11, 2001. ASB spent several weeks hand-writing the names and preparing the “Flags of Honor” for placement, a college tradition since 2005.

Flags of Honor
Photo by Julio Manzo

Tyler Mooney, a fire technology student, played “Amazing Grace” on the trumpet, providing a melodic background for a moment of reflection. Music faculty member Craig Pridmore then performed “Taps” from across the lake at the Pearl Pettis Pavilion.

After the ceremony on Friday, the fire academy conducted its annual Stair Climb to commemorate 9/11 first-responders’ efforts. As per tradition, the students climbed the 28 stairs of the drill tower at the Regional Public Safety Training Center four times to symbolize the 110 stories of the New York World Trade Center’s twin towers.

VVC’s Patriot Day Ceremony was recorded and is available to watch on the VVC website at www.vvc.edu/patriotday2020/.