ASHLAND, Va. -- Randolph-Macon College played host to a special ceremony on Wednesday with Japan's ambassador to the United States, marking another chapter in a decade-long friendship.
The sculpture of a cherry blossom flower was one of 26 made for this year's Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. It's also one of three commissioned by the Japanese Embassy and will now have a permanent home at Randolph-Macon College.
The sculpture stands in memory of a student who brought the school and country together.
Ten years ago, East Japan was rocked by an earthquake and tsunami that killed an estimated 20,000 people. Among them was Taylor Anderson, a 2008 Randolph-Macon graduate who was there teaching English.
"She left a mark, the last ten years, people still carry her and the love in their heart," Taylor's mother said.
From that tragedy, a relationship bloomed between the school and Japan.
"Largely as a result from the all too short but very purposeful life of Taylor Anderson," Robert Lindgren, the school's president, said.
Wednesday's ceremony was the latest gesture in the relationship between the two and the cherry blossom holds a special significance to both countries.
"It is a symbol of an unshakeable friendship that we hope will continue for years to come," Andy Anderson, Taylor's father, said.
"Cherry blossom is beautiful as it is, very ephemeral. It lasts only for two weeks, but this object you can enjoy," the ambassador said.
Anderson's parents said that they were honored by the presentation, noting that it was a testament to how their daughter lived.
"It's better to give than to receive and you look what you get back when you give," Taylor's father said.
The sculpture was placed next to a memorial bench for Anderson.
Japan's ambassador hoped that it would inspire other students to learn more about Taylor's story.
"The importance of these special individuals who reach across the oceans with open hearts and in so doing, create bridges of hope between nations," H.E. Koji Tomita, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America, said.