Today I attended the Pentagon Memorial Dedication. Seven years ago today, 184 souls lives were ended when terrorists hijacked flight 77 out of Dulles Airport in Virginia. That plane was flown into the Pentagon and impacted the building at 9:37 EST. One Hundred and eighty seven lives ended in a moment.
It was a solemn time, there were moments when all you felt like your heart was breaking and all you could do was cry a bit.
The gates opened at 6:20am. Once seated I just thought about the day, where I was when I’d heard the news and how it affected me. Although I am not much of a praying person, I prayed for the families of not just the 184 victims who died here, but for the victims and the families of those who perished in a field in Pennsylvania and those at the World Trade Towers in New York City.
Eventually several of the services bands performed wonderful quiet music. The Air Force Band played numerous instrumental pieces, the Navy and Marine Corps chorus’ sang as well as the Air force Singing Sergeants and a sweet group of middle school children. The Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Mr. Gordon England opened the ceremony with a wonderful speech.
The Deputy Secretary of Defense spoke about four of the victims. The one that really hit me was a young 11 year-old child who’d been selected by his teacher to attend a trip to California.
There were several husbands and wives who died and one family (the parents and tow children) how did their families cope?
There were speeches by numerous luminaries including, the Former Secretary of Defense Mr. Rumsfeld, The Joints Chief of Staff, Admiral Mullen and the current Secretary of State, the Honorable Mr. Robert Gates.
President Bush addressed the audience and I thought he did well. He kept the focus on the events of 9-11 and the actions of the Pentagon military and civilian personnel as well as the first responders from northern Virginia.
President Bush spoke of the leadership of Mr. Rumsfeld and called him a first responder. Although I would normally view that statement slightly askance, one of the victim’s brothers talked about meeting Mr. and Mrs. Rumsfeld on September 12th and spoke of how unfailingly kind they both were to him his entire family.
More music, some prayer by the Senate Chaplain and then President Bush went into the crowd to spend time with the families.
The memorial was beautiful I think the benches are arresting and symbolic but I don’t think they are beautiful. Perhaps its best that they aren’t, since one of the functions of a memorial is to remind us of terrible events, to warn us, and to give us the hope that with vigilance future tragedy can be prevented or mitigated.
Each of the victims has their name engraved on a bench and the benches are aligned along the final fight path of Flight 77. At the open end of each bench is the name of a victim. Under the benches are shallow reflecting pools I believe it will be beautiful at night.
Walking through the memorial and reading the tributes left could break your heart. Besides the stuffed animals left at the benches for the children some of the tributes were gut-wrenching.
All in all the Pentagon Memorial is a fitting tribute to the one hundred and eighty four men, women and children who perished that day at the Pentagon. And, as the last line states, we will never forget.