September 11, 2003 Memorial Services At Arlington National Cemetery

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Victims Remembered at Arlington Cemetery
Courtesy of The Washington Post
Thursday, September 11, 2003

To their right stood 50 headstones for the victims of the terrorist attack two years ago. To their left loomed the west wall of the Pentagon, it's limestone surface completely restored from the September 11, 2001, attack.

“In our minds' eye, we can see the arsenel of democracy that it represents,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a crowd of 400 gathered at Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath laying this morning. “The men and women who died were part of that arsenel.”

During a short and somber ceremony, Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Myers emphasized the continuing war against terrorism that was effectively launched that day in September.

“In the memory of all those killed at the Pentagon two years ago, we will not merely endure, we will prevail,” Myers said. “For the last two years, we've been a nation at war. Terrorists are trying to defeat the United States and what it stands for: peace, freedom and tolerance and respect for the lives of others.”

Planes from nearby Reagan National Airport flew overhead, the roar of their engines cutting through the silence of the cemetery. As the audience joined in singing God Bless America, many family members of the attack's victims were moved to tears.

“I think it's going to be hard every year,” said Terri Johnson of Silver Spring whose sister, Brenda Gibson, died in the terrorist attack. “I didn't think it was going to affect me as much as it did.”

Gibson, 59, of Fredericksburg, was working as a civilian accountant for the Army when the jetliner hit the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. She was one of 125 people in the building who died, along with all 59 passengers and crew aboard the plane and the five hijackers.

“It's still hard, it's still sad. It's something you never get over,” said another sister of Gibson's, Sharon Graham. “We not only keep her alive in our minds and memories, we want the world to remember her, too.”

Later, Rumsfeld, Myers and other Defense officials were expected at a ceremony inside the Pentagon chapel to dedicate new stained glass windows made by some of the survivors of the attack.


Rumsfeld eulogizes September 11 victims at the Pentagon
COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON TIMES

At 9:37 yesterday morning, more than 400 family members and friends stood in silence in Arlington National Cemetery to honor the memory of 184 persons killed when a terrorist-hijacked airliner crashed into the Pentagon at that exact time two years ago.

“We gather here today to honor the heroes that sleep in these hills,” Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said from a clearing atop a slope in the 624-acre cemetery, where 285,000 are interred. The Pentagon, where they died, could be barely seen through the trees behind his right shoulder.

Mr. Rumsfeld was especially speaking about 64 military and civilian personnel who died at the Pentagon and are buried at Arlington. The remaining 120 victims were buried are various sites throughout the country.
“They were heroes because they lived lives of duty and service to their country,” said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “They are all heroes because they lived their lives as free Americans.”

Minutes later, the two leaders walked to one side of the families and friends to lay a wreath on a granite marker bearing five plaques engraved with 184 names.

The remains of 50 of the 64 victims buried at Arlington are grouped under rows of nearby tombstones. Eight others are in the columbarium — a wall containing remains — and four are in graves throughout the cemetery.

Except for the disaster, yesterday was reminiscent of September 11, 2001. The sun was shining brightly. The temperature was a balmy 70 degrees. Family members and friends wore sunglasses or shaded their eyes with the “Patriot Day Observance” programs.

Mr. Rumsfeld reminded the audience that the attacks two years ago on the Pentagon and World Trade Towers in New York City, and the plane crash into a field in Shanksville, Pa., killed more than 3,000 people and sparked the war on terrorism.

“We know if we don't fight the terrorists over there, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, we will have to fight them over here,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

“Freedom is the birthright of every American,” he said, adding that the war on terrorism will shine the “light of liberty” on people living under the reign of dictators.

“This war on terrorism will be a long, hard struggle,” said Gen. Myers.

The general pointed out that some American Airlines employees were in the audience and extended a welcome to them. They were friends of the Flight 77 crew that was killed when terrorists smashed their plane into the Pentagon two years ago.

Navy Chaplain Robert Beltram prayed that the fight against terrorists might “unite the people of the world for peace.”

Cmdr. Beltram said, “Even the most eloquent words are inadequate to express the feelings and thoughts on this occasion. They are all heroes … because they lived their lives as free Americans.”

The U.S. Marine Band played smooth, slow tunes, including hymns, at the start of the program. Military members saluted and the audience stood with hands over their hearts as the “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played.

Concluding the half-hour Patriot Day memorial, the band played “Faith of Our Fathers” then accompanied Army Sgt. Bob McDonald in the singing of “America the Beautiful.”

The audience, which included at least one infant and a dozen preschool youngsters, was solemnly quiet throughout. There was no applauding. Friends greeted each other with smiles, hugs and fervent handshakes.
Occasionally, but not during the most solemn moments, airliners droned overhead after takeoffs from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

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An unidentified mourner touches the Pentagon Group Burial Marker prior to a ceremony, September 11, 2003 in Arlington National Cemetery. Of the 184 who died in the crash of American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, 64 are buried here
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Unidentified mourners hug among tombstones near the Pentagon Group Burial Marker prior to a 9-11 Observance Ceremony, September 11, 2003 in Arlington National Cemetery.
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U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (C) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers walk away from the Pentagon Group Burial Marker after placing a wreath, September 11, 2003 in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
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Airline Pilots stand in prayer during a wreath laying ceremony for the 9/11 Pentagon victims on Patriot's Day at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC. Today marks the second anniversary of the terror attacks on the United States.
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American Airlines pilots attend a wreath laying ceremony at the gravesites of victims of the September 11th attack on the Pentagon at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Thursday, September 11, 2003
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Family members of those lost in the September 11 attack on the Pentagon console each other prior to a wreath laying ceremony at the gravesites of victims at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. September 11
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General Richard Myers, left, Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, right, walk to the podium after laying a wreath at a monument dedicated to victims of the September 11th attack on the Pentagon at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. Sept. 11, 2003. Many of the victims are buried there.
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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks during a graveside wreath laying ceremony for victims of the September 11th 2001 attack on the Pentagon at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va
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A young girl covers her eyes during a moment of silence during a graveside wreath laying ceremony with family members of those lost in the September 11 attack on the Pentagon at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. September 11, 2003
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Carolyne Morey bows her head with her father, American Airlines pilot James Condes, at a memorial for September 11 victims near the gravesites of Pentagon attack victims at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. September 11, 2003. Condes was a friend of Capt. Charles Burlingame, pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld bows his head during a wreath laying ceremony with family members of those lost in the September 11th attack on the Pentagon at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Sept. 11, 2003. Many victims in the Pentagon attack are buried at the site of the ceremony.
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U.S. Navy (news – web sites) personnel pay respects at the gravesites of those lost in the September 11 attack on the Pentagon prior to a wreath laying ceremony with victims' families at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. September 11, 2003
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Family members of those lost in the September 11 attack on the Pentagon console each other after a wreath laying ceremony at the gravesites of victims at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. September 11, 2003. At right is a memorial to the victims of the Pentagon attack
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U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (partially hidden) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers pause for a moment of silence after placing a wreath, September 11, 2003 in Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia. Of the 184 who died in the crash of American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, 64 are buried here
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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers (L) and Navy Chaplain Commander Robert Beltram (C) salute during a ceremony, September 11, 2003 in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Of the 184 who died in the crash of American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, 64 are buried here
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USAF 1: Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Richard B. Myers (right) and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (center) lay a wreath in honor of the victims of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon during a memorial service at Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 11, 2003. Of the 184 people who died at the Pentagon, 64 are buried in the cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)
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