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Never Forget: Victor Valley College Commemorates 9/11 with Stunning Memorial

VICTORVILLE, Calif. — In an era characterized by divisions that have strained relationships among family and friends due to political differences, Victor Valley College boldly continues to defy the norm and foster unity for the 22nd anniversary of September 11th. Against all odds, VVC succeeds with acknowledgment of what happened on that tragic day. Throughout Labor Day weekend, on the upper campus, on a grassy knoll directly to the left of the High Desert 9/11 memorial, around 200 students and community members held up traditions and gathered as early as 6:00 a.m. for three consecutive days to remember and honor those who perished in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. over two decades ago.

VVC Public Information Officer and ASB Advisor Robert Sewell says that’s important for the campus to continue this tradition of putting up all 3,000 flags each year not only to remind us as a community what happened on September 11, but to also let all first responders know just how important they are to the community, risking their lives each day to make sure we’re safe. 

A couple of months prior to the weekend, students of the Associated Student Body (ASB) at VVC volunteered their time to write out the names of nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11. Each index card, with the name of a fallen loved one, was attached to its own American flag during the holiday weekend, and placed into the ground to honor that victim. 72-year-old High Desert community leader Frank Kelly moved to the High Desert in the late 1990s and brought his 9-year-old grandson to VVC to lay down some flags. Frank says that he took his grandson to VVC to show him the memorial and explained the purpose of each flag to him “These people gave their lives on 9/11, we’re doing this in their honor.”  

Photo of the "United We Stand" Memorial for the High Desert on the campus of Victor Valley College (September 2023)
Photo of the “United We Stand” Memorial for the High Desert on the campus of Victor Valley College (September 2023) PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Caravella/Media Relations VVC

37-year-old VVC nursing student and mother Desiree Coley brought her 11-year-old son Dominic to VVC over the weekend to also participate. Dominic was asked if he understood the purpose of the college doing this for 9/11 since his generation had not been born or existed at the time the Twin Towers went down. Dominic says it’s important to remember these people “[because] they died in 9/11 so it’s important to remember because it was a sad day.”

Desiree says she remembers being in class on an unforgettable day, “It was actually on the TV [and] the teacher had put it on right then in class as it was happening so it was crazy. You know when you’re that age it’s kind of like you don’t know what it all means, but it was super scary. I’m thinking like ‘Are we going to go to war?’”  Desiree also says she wanted to make sure that her kids know what happened in American history, “It’s not even that far off distance wise and I think it’s really special remembering all these people.” 

Those new to the community should be aware that the official September 11 memorial for the High Desert rests on Victor Valley College’s upper campus, in front of the library, which is next to the grassy knoll that is currently displaying nearly 3,000 American flags. The “United We Stand” monument, was designed by VVC student Joan Sowinski and was dedicated on Monday, September 11, 2006. The concept behind the monument originated from the visionary Dr. Prem Reddy, Chairman of the Board of Desert Valley Hospital, who sought to create a memorial that would help heal the community’s wounds.

Jeffrey Crumbaker of the Patrician Group in Riverside brought Sowinski’s vision to life. The result is a magnificent memorial comprised of three pillars, each adorned with a metal arch extending from its top, culminating in a liberty bell at the pinnacle. Inscribed on the Liberty Bell are the words, “We will never forget the innocent lives lost on September Eleventh Two Thousand and One.”

Each pillar bears a word and a plaque. The leftmost pillar, when facing the library, is dedicated to “Strength” and commemorates the 184 people killed at the Pentagon. The adjacent pillar stands for “Freedom” and pays tribute to the 2,749 lives lost at the World Trade Center. The final pillar to the right symbolizes “Hope” and honors the 40 individuals who perished on Flight 93.

Curved benches crafted from the same material as the pillars flank each side, featuring marble tops. A marble plaque listing the generous sponsors adorns the Hope pillar.

(From left: Desiree and son Dominic pose for a photo during the flag placement on the VVC campus Labor Day Weekend, Sept 2023.)
(From left: Desiree and son Dominic pose for a photo during the flag placement on the VVC campus Labor Day Weekend, Sept 2023.) PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Caravella/Media Relations VVC

The public is welcomed to the campus between now and September 12, 2023, to view the memorial and pay respects to those who perished 22 years ago. 

The “United We Stand” monument stands today as a testament to the unwavering support of the following donors:

Desert Valley Hospital, PrimeMed Pharmacies, Indian American Cultural Association, Daily Press, ARMAC Insurance, Xerox, GE Medical Systems & Mojave Radiation Oncology Center, St. Mary Choice Medical Group, MWB Business System, City National Bank, Victor Valley Community Hospital, Victor Valley IPA Medical Group, F. Allen Rutledge, LL, MD, Vir K. Nanda, MD, Hari Reddy, MD, Victor Valley College, High Desert Primary Care Medical Group, Sikh Cultural of the High Desert, Venkat R. Vangala, MD, Inc, The Barker Family, Desert Cities Dialysis, Dr. Yelamanchili, Roche Labs, High Tech Signs, Victor Auto Plaza, Gary Purscell, Washington Mutual, Guss and Debby Vopalensky, Marcee and Mark Samberg, High Desert Islamic Society, Crismali Foot and Ankle, Ravi Lyer, MD, Kamath Medical Group, Thompson and Thompson Law Office, High Desert Cardiopulmonary Medical Group, Val Armienti, Dr. Wassef, Panch Jeakumar, MD, Desert Valley Hospital Auxiliary, the former Clear Channel Communication, Valley Orthopedic Center, Anupama Sharma, MD, Guardian Medical Group, Merck, Robert A. Martinez Architect & Assoc., Bear Valley Party Rentals, Patrick and Jenifer Silvestri, Jurgenson Painting, Barstow Hospital, Robert Bearman, MD, Riverside Cement, Mojave Copy and Printing, Golden State Fire Pro.

Victor Valley College continues to ensure that the memory of September 11th, 2001 lives on and that the sacrifices made that day are never forgotten.

A sea of American flags resting on the grassy knoll next to the 9/11 memorial at VVC.
A sea of American flags resting on the grassy knoll next to the 9/11 memorial at VVC. PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Caravella/Media Relations VVC

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(VVC news release)

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