With hymns, Scripture readings and speeches from military leaders, relatives and friends paid their respects Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery to the 184 victims of last year's terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
“While there's nothing one of us can do to bring back those loved ones, we can celebrate who they were, how they lived their lives and remember how their lives were lost, in a struggle dedicated to the eternal truth of freedom and the human spirit,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld spoke next to a flag-draped casket containing cremated remains from the Pentagon rubble that could not be identified. For five of the victims, the internment in Arlington will be the only burial because no remains were confirmed to be theirs.
The five include a 60-year-old retired Army colonel and a 3-year-old girl killed with her parents and sister aboard hijacked American Airlines Flight 77.
Some 1,000 relatives of victims sat solemnly, some hugging and weeping, others wiping away tears, as the crowd sang “Amazing Grace” and listened to eulogies from military chaplains.
“Know that your country shares your sorrow, mourns your loss and prays that God will comfort you,” Rumsfeld told the families.
A five-sided granite marker bearing the 184 names will be placed over a shared grave at Arlington National Cemetery — the nation's most prestigious burial ground — holding the unidentified remains.
The 4-foot-5-inch (1.35-meter) tall marker, with names of the dead inscribed on aluminum plaques, will be placed over the grave next week. The Army oversees Arlington cemetery.
The casket was carried by a horse-drawn caisson to a hill within view of the repaired Pentagon. Hundreds of family members filed past the grave site. Most of the 64 victims from the Pentagon who already are interred at Arlington lie nearby, under simple headstones.
In some cases, as recovery efforts continued, additional remains were identified after a person was buried. Some of their families chose to have those fragments held for the common burial site, Jennifer Lafley, spokeswoman for the Army Military District of Washington said.
Many of the dead, including some who were working inside the Pentagon on September 11, did not qualify for burial at the nation's most famous cemetery.
Arlington is generally reserved for active duty personnel, military retirees, retired reservists who reach age 60, winners of the military's highest decorations, and former prisoners of war. Their spouses also qualify.
Among the 275,000 people buried there are presidents John F. Kennedy and William Howard Taft, the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and veterans of every war the United States has fought.
September 12, 2002
Marker Set for Unknown 9 / 11 Victims
In a single casket, remains that symbolically represent all 184 victims of the attack on the Pentagon were buried with full military honors Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery, the resting place of the nation's unknown soldiers.
In a quiet postscript to the nation's September 11 observances, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld eulogized the dead as patriots who died “here at home, not on a faraway battlefield.”
He offered special condolences to the families of five victims whose remains were never identified, including 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who died aboard American Airlines Flight 77.
“Today, these five join the unknown of past wars even as we pursue the war that is still unfolding,” Rumsfeld said, standing next to the flag-draped casket.
A granite monument with five sides, like the Pentagon, will be placed over the grave next week. It will stand on a hill with a tree-dappled view of the spot where the hijacked jet smashed into the Pentagon.
Names of all 184 victims are inscribed on the 4-foot-5-inch-tall marker.
“It cries out, do not forget. Do not forget, Americans,” Brigadier General James T. Spivey Jr. said in his funeral address.
Some 1,000 relatives of victims sat solemnly, some hugging and weeping, many holding pictures of their loved ones, as the crowd sang “Amazing Grace” on Thursday.
After the funeral, a caisson drawn by six horses carried the casket behind the U.S. Army Band and two platoons of service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
The service marked the end of a year of September 11 burials at Arlington.
Individual funerals from the Pentagon attack began here on September 25; the last was April 9. In all, 64 of the dead had already been buried at Arlington, most of them next to the site of the new monument.
Many other victims, including some who were working inside the Pentagon on September 11, did not qualify for an individual burial site at the nation's most prestigious cemetery, which is limited to active duty personnel and certain former service members.
All the cremated remains buried Thursday were determined to have come from victims, because they did not have a genetic trait shared by the terrorists, said Chris Kelly, spokesman for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
Some of the remains buried could not be linked to an individual victim. Others were identified after a victim had been buried, and were included in the shared grave at the family's request.
The hijackers' remains were turned over to the FBI in February. Any other remains, such as ash, that could not be partially identified as victims were disposed of by the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Kelly said, to ensure that no terrorists were committed to hallowed ground.
Donna Teepe buried her husband, retired Lieutenant Colonel Karl W. Teepe, in a similar Arlington service on October 15, when she was still too dazed to note the bugler playing taps and other ceremonial flourishes.
“I missed a lot of it,” she said, watching hundreds of other family members line up to file by the shared casket. “It's good to see it now.”
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard