Like many communities across the country, Saturday, Sept. 11 was a day of remembrance for Moniteau County citizens.
Community members gathered at Latham Memorial Family Park's veterans memorial for a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the culmination of a year of planning by a group of county 4-H participants — Kierstyn Lawon, Emma Baepler, Brayden Hallford, Madison McCord and Kristyn Wetzig. Ultimately, the event served as a solemn reminder of the lives lost on that day and the ways that Americans remember two decades later.
The event also served as a fundraiser for the veterans memorial, with proceeds from both a quilt auction and a free-will donation meal going toward construction costs. The total amount raised Saturday was more than $10,500, thanks in large part to the quilt auction. The quilt was auctioned off and donated back a total of 18 times by everyone from AA Propane — twice — to former California mayor Norris Gerhart and Moniteau County Presiding Commissioner Mac Finley before its final sale for $900 to Dale Deraps. He handed the quilt to Sandy Deraps, a Gold Star mother and speaker at Saturday's event.
Sandy Deraps spoke to the crowd about the loss of her son, 19-year-old Leon Deraps, who was killed in action in 2006 while serving in the Marines in Iraq. Deraps also took time to note the importance of how the country came together in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001 and the importance of veterans in defending the country before and since.
"To all the patriots in the audience, our veterans, thank you, and thank you for stopping and remembering the tragedy of 9/11," Deraps said.
California Mayor Rich Green served as the first speaker of the day. Green noted the events of that day, and the "sense of awe" felt across the country as citizens realized the efforts of the many heroic first responders to save lives in the aftermath.
"Today, we stand in this unfinished park with its veterans memorial, gazebo and future children's playground all awaiting completion," Green said in his remarks. "We should understand that the tragedy started on 9/11 is also unfinished business. Only through future courage, sacrifice, understanding, patriotism and giving by each of us will the war against terror and, symbolically, this park reach conclusion."
The third speaker on the day, following Deraps, was veteran and former county commissioner Kenny Kunze. Kunze, for his part, commended the 4-H group for its hard work in planning the ceremony.
"I could see their eyes when Elaine (Anderson) told them what they wanted to do and what it would involve, but these kids never stepped back," Kunze said. "They said they would do it, and look what they've done. They've done a great job putting this together."
Kunze spoke about his own experience on Sept. 11, 2001, when he learned of the tragedy while he was at work. He also noted how the tragedy affected countless others — the family members of the victims and first responders who lost their lives two decades ago. He urged the crowd to thank first responders for their service, and not to forget America's veterans, past, present and future.