KISSIMMEE — To honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Valencia College’s Osceola Campus has teamed up with the Rotary Club of Lake Nona to stage a dramatic display of flags on its expansive lawn — one flag for each of the nearly 3,000 lives lost on that tragic day.
The installation of the flags in Kissimmee, which will be on display from Sept. 8 – 14, was the idea of Dr. Kathleen Plinske, president of Valencia’s Osceola and Lake Nona campuses.
Dr. Plinske taught weekend classes at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. last fall – and was impressed by Pepperdine’s annual memorial for Sept. 11, which is called “Waves of Flags.”
“It was that display – one flag to represent each victim of 9/11 – that helped me to get my mind around the magnitude of the tragedy,” Plinske said. “When you hear 2,977 people, it’s obviously too large of a number to fully comprehend its magnitude. But to see all of those flags, knowing that each one represents an individual who was lost and whose family and community was forever impacted, really touched me.” She believes the memorial will be a way for current Valencia students, many of whom were only six or seven years old on Sept. 11, 2001, to learn about the events of that tragic day. The campus will host a number of events throughout the week, including an Interfaith Panel, intended to help students learn about different religious faiths and develop a deeper appreciation for diversity, peace and acceptance.
In addition to honoring the victims of 9/11, the Osceola Campus flag display will also serve as the site for Osceola County’s Sept. 11 county-wide memorial service, which will include participants from the Osceola County’s Sheriff’s Office, Osceola County Emergency Services, Kissimmee Police and Fire Departments, St. Cloud Police and Fire Departments, and the Osceola County Veteran’s Council. In addition, Gina Marie Incandela will perform the national anthem and the chorus from Denn John Middle School will perform “God Bless America.”
The ceremony will be held at on Sept. 11 at 1:30 p.m., near the Clock Tower at the Osceola Campus.
To install the flags, the Rotary Club of Lake Nona has assembled a community-wide team of volunteers. Between Aug. 27 and Sept. 6, volunteers – including Rotarians, cadets of the Civil Air Patrol, members of the U.S. Fire Department Reserve Corp and U.S. Navy Future Sailors program, members of the Osceola Sheriff’s Explorers, volunteers from local churches, and Valencia students, faculty, and staff – will install the 2,977 flagpoles on the campus grounds. To install the poles, organizers anticipate that they will work seven nights in three-hour shifts.
The Rotary Club of Lake Nona secured sponsors to raise the money to buy the supplies for the flag display. The primary sponsors are Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) and Clancy & Theys Construction Company. Other sponsors include Hoagland Electric LLC, Insurance Office of America, Sonu Shukla, CPA, Sweetwater Car Wash, and Williams Company Management Group.
“We feel like this will serve as important recognition for our local emergency responders, as well as a way to honor those who were lost on September 11,” said Michael Valenzuela, president of the Rotary Club of Lake Nona. “Rotary International’s theme this year is ‘Peace Through Service’ and we believe this project will build bridges of friendship and acceptance among our diverse community.”
The Rotary Club of Lake Nona has continued to raise money and has pledged that any additional funds raised will go toward a scholarship with the Valencia Foundation to help pay for continuing education for men and women who are currently police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
View the Orlando Sentinel video on the project.