Sept. 11, 2001 has become a defining moment in the relationship between the City of Temecula and its sister city, Leidschendam-Voorburg, Netherlands.
Wednesday that bond grew stronger when representatives from both communities gathered at Temecula Duck Pond on the 12th anniversary of 9/11.
Community members placed their hands on their hearts as the Temecula Valley Young Marines presented the colors.
Then national anthems from both countries were played by The Spirit of Great Oak Marching Band.
Mayor Mike Naggar gave his remarks about the occasion, reminding residents of the service members who fight to protect the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.
He also expressed gratitude for the Dutch sister city that after 9/11 had presented Temecula with a statue of a mother and her children on a bicycle, “bravely pedaling into the storm...to honor the resilient American spirit in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.”
Sister City Liaison Vivienne Soesman, who traveled from Leidschendam-Voorburg for the occasion, was joined by Temecula city officials as she ceremoniously placed a red, white and blue 9/11 remembrance wreath at the base of the statue.
Also, in celebration of 20 years of friendship between the cities, two large metal tulip sculptures crafted by Dutch artist Jeroen Stok were unveiled Wednesday. The new pieces flank each side of the original gift from Leidschendam-Voorburg.
City of Temecula Recreation Supervisor and Sister City Liaison Robin Gilliland explained that the city has been holding a 9/11 Remembrance event since the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
“That first year, we had at least 500 or 600 people come out,” Gilliland recalled, noting the sister city has traditionally been a part of it.
Following Wednesday’s ceremony, officials and community members of all ages broke into smaller groups as white candles were passed around and lit in observance of 9/11.
Many proceeded to observe moments of silence and reflection.
A woman who sat across the pond from the activity became too choked up when asked to comment on the occasion.
Nearby, 13-year-old Austin Oldham joined family members who were spread out on a blanket in the grass.
Austin, a Temecula Valley Young Marine, had come dressed in full uniform to serve during the ceremony. It was the second year he had participated in the city event.
“I love America and it would be nice to help it out,” Austin, said of his aspirations to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps one day.
Closer to where the wreath had earlier been laid, U.S. Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Darren Bernal sat holding a candle, his wife and children by his side. They came to Wednesday’s event with a friend whose son is a Temecula Valley Young Marine.
“It is important to not forget history, especially a tragedy such as this,” Bernal said, of remembering 9/11. “Some of these kids are only going to know about this through video and books and the Internet.”
Family friend, Tamara Lee, agreed. Originally from the East Coast, Lee said she was working in upstate New York on Sept. 11, 2001. Many of her relatives, however, where in New York City working in Manhattan. It was hard to immediately get a hold of them, she recalled.
“We had friends who passed but none of my family did, thank God,” Lee said. “...That is something you never forget.”