9/11 anniversary: Nearly 1,000 mourn terror deaths at Pentagon
Led by Vice President Joe Biden and other top officials, nearly 1,000 people gathered Sunday at the memorial for the 184 people killed when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the south side of the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
At 9:37 a.m. Eastern time, the minute the jet hit the building a decade ago, the group observed a moment of silence.
Members of the armed services in dress uniforms laid wreaths of white flowers on each bench in the memorial commemorating the 125 men and women killed in the Pentagon and the 59 passengers and crew who died on the hijacked airliner.
“You don’t go on. You go forward. You move forward,” said Joan Tempestilli, whose son-in-law died at the Pentagon. “There’s no moving on when something like this happens.”
Tempestilli said the killing of Osama bin Laden greatly helped her grandson, who was 9 when his father was killed. Bin Laden was killed in a U.S. raid in May.
The night of Bin Laden’s death, the grandson led fellow students in songs on campus at Notre Dame, where he is now a student. “It was a huge thing for him,” Tempestilli said. “It was like something he was able to shed.”
At the Pentagon ceremony in Arlington, Va., Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was joined by Biden and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in paying tribute to the more than 2 million Americans who have served in the military over the last decade, and the more than 6,000 who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
“In the wake of those attacks, a generation of American stepped forward to serve in uniform, determined to confront our enemies,” Panetta said. “For 10 years, they have carried that burden of protecting America.”
Biden thanked the gathered families and first responders for their service and their sacrifices. “It’s a basic American instinct to respond to crisis,” Biden told the assembled crowd, recalling the people who rushed to the site of the devastation 10 years ago, including then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld said on Sunday that he kept the Pentagon open immediately after the attack to send a message to terrorists that they could not shut down the nation's defense operations.
Sunday morning’s ceremony was one of two planned to commemorate the attacks. President Obama is scheduled to place a wreath at the Pentagon in the afternoon, his third stop at the sites where hijacked planes hit.
-- Noam N. Levey
Photo: Relatives of victims of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon attend ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the attack. Credit: Jason Reed / Reuters