Initially billed as a celebration to unveil a new 40-foot flagpole at The Shops at Wiregrass, the event took on a more somber tone in light of the mass shootings in Orlando.
At the beginning of the Flag Day ceremony, Greg Lenners, the general manager for The Shops at Wiregrass, asked for a moment of silence.
That moment lasted 49 seconds.
Each second symbolized the loss of a life on June 12 at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
In asking for sign of respect, Lenners also asked those gathered to honor those who were injured, as well as their families and the community of Orlando.
Following Lenners’ remarks, Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore shared some history about Flag Day, noting that it was officially established by a proclamation by President Woodrow Wilson on May 30, 1916.
President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress on Aug. 3, 1949 declaring June 14 as National Flag Day.
Moore invited those gathered to reflect upon the meaning of the American flag.
“Think to yourself: What does this flag mean to me?” Moore said. “In your heart, right now, what does it mean to you?” he asked.
“Who gave up their lives to keep that flag flying?” he asked.
Moore said when he thinks about the flag, he thinks about such things as freedom, family, veterans and pride.
The Wesley Chapel Cadet Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol handled the duties of presenting the colors and hoisting the flag.
Immediately after raising the 8-by-12-foot flag to the top of the pole, squadron members lowered it to half-staff, in honor of the Orlando shooting victims.
Those attending the event said they came to demonstrate their patriotism and celebrate what the American flag represents.
Teresa Fegan came sporting a blouse decked out with stars.
“I feel like we’re free in this country,” the 73-year-old Fegan said, explaining why she wanted to attend. “It’s wonderful to be a part of this country. I am so sorry for what happened in Orlando,” she added.
Her 80-year-old husband, Pete, said he posts a flag at his home on all of the nation’s patriotic holidays.
Fifty-year-old Juan Obando and his 42-year-old wife, Monica, came to the ceremony for two reasons.
They wanted to support their son, Juan Obando Jr., who is part of the Wesley Chapel Cadet Squadron, and they wanted to express their patriotism.
“We are American citizens,” Juan Obando said. “We are supporting America at this time,” he added, referring to the mass shootings in Orlando.
“It is so sad,” his wife, Monica said.
The event also attracted a number of dignitaries, including Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader and state Reps. Danny Burgess and Shawn Harrison. Bob Hatfield was there, too, representing U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis.
Eric Johnson, of Wesley Chapel Toyota, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with a few members of the audience reverently joining in.
When adding the flagpole to the regional mall, Lenners said “we were methodical in looking for the location.
“We wanted something that was front and center,” he said. “This is certainly front and center.”
Published June 22, 2016