- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2002

Arlington County officials are encouraging residents to fly the American flag or a foreign flag to remember the September 11 attacks.

"At 9:37 a.m. on Wednesday September 11, the moment the plane struck the Pentagon, residents are invited to display an American flag, and/or flag from your home country," reads a flier distributed by Arlington County government titled "9-11 Arlington Remembers."

Christopher Zimmerman, chairman of the Arlington County Board, said the call to display multinational flags was to showcase America's and particularly Arlington's diversity.

"We are trying to encourage everyone to participate," said Mr. Zimmerman, a Democrat. "We happen to have a very diverse community here in Arlington."

But some Arlington County residents said encouraging people to hang the flags of other countries was a slap in the face to Americans at a time when they should be united, not divided.

"This is just another example of intolerance towards America," said resident Robert Molleur, a Coast Guard veteran. "America is special in her own right she deserves nothing more than her own red, white and blue on 9/11. After all, it was America attacked on that day."

President Bush has designated September 11 as Patriot Day and has asked that the flag be flown at half-staff at all residences and state, federal and local government buildings. On Wednesday, he signed a proclamation making September 11 an annual remembrance for the more than 3,000 people killed.

Mr. Zimmerman said that by encouraging the display of all flags, the county was demonstrating what it truly means to be an American.

"This is not a contradiction," he said. "The United States is a nation of nations, and so are Arlingtonians."

According to the 2000 census figures, 30 percent of the county's population belongs to a minority group of which approximately 20 percent identified themselves as a Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander.

Debbie Powers, marking director for Parks, Recreation and Community Resources for Arlington County, said the county wants to encourage all residents to take part in the day's remembrance.

"We want this to be a community event, and so we want to encourage them to display their heritage," she said. "Many have their [cultures] flag on display on one side of the house and the American flag on the other."

Arlingtonian Tim Wise said that displaying other flags detracts from remembering the events of September 11, and is nothing more than political correctness rearing its head.

"They don't show the Pentagon draped with all these foreign flags, just the American flag," Mr. Wise said. "I think America should come first. I am not saying, 'America right or wrong,' but I do think we should think about America first."

As part of the official observance, a 30-by-60-foot American flag will be unfurled at Gateway Park at the foot of the Key Bridge to remember the attack on the Pentagon. It will be covered with a black drape that will be raised at 9:37 a.m. the moment the hijacked plane struck exactly one year earlier.

"This flag is absolutely huge," Mrs. Powers said. "I have never seen anything like it. It will be a very moving ceremony."

Also, A 3,500-pound bell on loan from a Franciscan monastery in Delaware will be rung 184 times, once for each life lost at the Pentagon.

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