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Thousands walk to remember 9/11

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

Thousands marched for freedom in D.C., the president called for a minute of silence, and a bell rang out 184 times in Arlington in tributes yesterday to those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks four years ago and to troops fighting abroad.

In New York, the siblings of the deceased read the names of their loved ones to a weeping crowd at the site where the World Trade Center once stood. The ceremony drew to a close after four hours, the time it took to read the 2,749 names of those who died in New York.

After a moment of silence outside the Pentagon, as many as 10,000 marchers sang "God Bless America" and joined the America Supports You Freedom Walk, which finished at the World War II memorial. The walk was organized by America Supports You, a nationwide program created by the Defense Department to honor U.S. military men and women.

The marchers walked past the rebuilt wing of the Pentagon, into which one of the planes crashed, killing 184 persons. They saw one old brick embedded in the new construction, charred black from the burning jet fuel and etched with the date of the attack.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who had participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery earlier, joined the marchers as they reached the Memorial Bridge. Mr. Rumsfeld walked with the crowd until they got to a stage behind the World War II Memorial, where he spoke to them.

"This is the first march for freedom," Mr. Rumsfeld told the crowd. "Looking at this crowd, I don't think it will be the last. Thank you for your support of our freedom and support of our country. Thank you so much."

Mr. Rumsfeld remembered 42 years ago when as a congressman, he walked behind the casket of President Kennedy in the funeral procession to Arlington National Cemetery.

"I walked back today," he said.

Local, state and federal officials remembered the victims and those who responded to the attacks in vigils and special ceremonies throughout the day.

On the lawn of the White House, President Bush led the nation in a minute of silence that began at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first of four planes hijacked by terrorists slammed into the World Trade Center.

In southwestern Pennsylvania, about 1,000 people attended a memorial service in the field where United Flight 93 crashed after it was hijacked by terrorists.

Local officials, including U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, attended a memorial service at Courthouse Plaza in Arlington County. The national anthem was sung before a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m., the time when American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

Mr. Moran, county officials and a police honor guard rang a bell 184 times, once for each victim killed in the Pentagon attack.

"To ring the bell 184 times makes us realize how many lives are involved," Mr. Moran said. "We remember so we don't let it happen again."

In the audience of about 100, sitting or standing under an American flag, was Jonathon Brown, 50, who attended the past three September 11 memorials. This year, he brought his wife, Anne, and sons Stewart, 12, and Reid, 6.

Mr. Brown was at work four years ago when he saw the televised images of planes crashing into the World Trade Center, and the flames and smoke billowing from crash sites in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.

"It occurred to me that this country was under attack," he said.

As the names were read in New York, weeping mourners walked to a reflecting memorial pool at the floor of the World Trade Center site. Families filled the water with red, orange and yellow roses, some shaking as they inscribed dedications on the wooden edge of the pool.

In New Orleans, Montgomery County firefighters helping in the relief effort presented a flag flown at the Pentagon after the attacks to a group of New York firefighters, also helping with the Katrina recovery effort.

Outside the Pentagon, Thomas Leone, 30, of Gaithersburg, a Marine for seven years who served in Iraq, was among the thousands clad in decorated white Freedom Walk T-shirts who were marching toward the Mall.

"I'm going to be joining the National Guard," said Mr. Leone, who works for the Commerce Department. He said his family appreciated the Freedom Walk, honoring the military men and women.

But, he said he became "a little upset" when he saw about 20 protesters near the Lincoln Memorial waving signs, one of which read: "God Hates the Government."

"You want them to know you are [in Iraq] for the right reason. We joined to help the country," Mr. Leone said. Police said the protesters were from a church in Kentucky.

Mimi Evans, 56, whose son is serving with the Marines in Iraq, flew from Cape Cod, Mass., to express her displeasure with what she saw as the politicization of September 11 commemorations.

"I felt this event was exploitative in that it connected 9/11 and what our military is doing now," she said.

The walk ended with a performance by country singer Clint Black, who told the crowd, "I'm proud and humble to be here with you on this day. I'm proud of those who put on a uniform in our defense."

Last night, officials in Fairfax County hosted a 9/11 remembrance ceremony. A concert in Montgomery County featuring the U.S. Naval Academy Electric Brigade paid tribute to the 11 county residents who died in the attack on the Pentagon.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.