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Walk honors Pentagon fallen

- The Washington Times - Monday, September 11, 2006

Thousands of somber marchers moved through historic Washington and across the Potomac River last evening to the Pentagon, where 184 died five years ago today when terrorists crashed a hijacked airliner into the nation's military headquarters.

Shortly after sunset, 184 beams of light were projected into the clear, dark sky above the Pentagon. The lights will stay on through tonight.

"When you're with people who went through the same thing you did, it's very cathartic," said Danielle Lamana, 32, of Louisiana, whose brother, Navy Lt. Michael "Scott" Lamana, was killed at the Pentagon, where he was a briefer for the chief of naval operations.

"You cannot say thanks enough to the people," she said. "We remember him every day, but when other people memorialize him in some way or another, it makes you feel good."

A flight officer from Baton Rouge, La., Lt. Lamana was working his usual job as a briefer for the chief of naval operations when the terrorists struck.

The second annual event, called the America Supports You Freedom Walk, was led by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Marchers gathered in the afternoon at the Washington Monument, where a military chaplain led them in prayer.

"I am proud to represent 2.4 million servicemen and women," Gen. Pace said. "We are here to tell the terrorists: 'Not on our watch.' "

Among those joining the general were students from three D.C. schools -- Ketcham Elementary, Bertie Backus Middle and Leckie Elementary -- that lost classmates and teachers aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when hijackers crashed it into the southwest side of the Pentagon.

"It is so important for us not to forget the impact that this had on our school community," Leckie Principal Clementine Homesley said. "This walk has been a wonderful experience."

Of the dead, 59 were on the jetliner and 125 were in the Pentagon.

"When you organize an event that brings together 15,000 people, that says we will not forget," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense.

The marchers, most wearing white T-shirts with the words "Freedom Walk," carried signs in remembrance of the more than 3,000 people killing in the attacks at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, and when a fourth hijacked airliner crashed near Shanksville, Pa.

"I'm walking because I support my country, and this is one good way," Joanna Matthews, 14, said.

"It is very moving that so many people came and that there is still so much support five years later," said Keith Redding, 39, of Arlington, whose best friend and roommate, Joe Ferguson, was on Flight 77.

Marchers were met along the route by anti-war protesters, whose chants were muted by the walkers' refrain of "USA."

The Freedom Walk expanded this year to 125 events covering all 50 states. The event originated with America Supports You, a Department of Defense program.

"We weren't sure what to expect when we shared the idea of a walk," Mrs. Barber said. "Now we can barely keep up. That's the answer to the question: Do people still remember?"

A 9-year-old boy led the walk in Sebring, Ohio.

Earlier yesterday, the Washington Hebrew Congregation sponsored a Unity Walk from its home on Macomb Street Northwest to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at Q and 21st streets Northwest.

Several hundred participants walked past the Washington National Cathedral and the Islamic Center.

Arun Gandhi, a grandson of India's icon of nonviolent resistance, Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi, took part.

"One of the cornerstones of nonviolence," he said, "was about understanding one another's faith and building bridges."