- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2007

Thousands of people marched yesterday from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon to commemorate the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Organizers of the third annual National America Supports You Freedom Walk said more than 8,000 people participated this year.

“This is a walk that is aptly named,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England as marchers in white T-shirts gathered near the Lincoln Memorial, within view of the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol. The walks “make sure the country and people never forget 9/11.”

There were smaller marches in cities across the country and in at least eight other countries, organizers said.

Terrorists hijacked four commercial jets in the attack, crashing one into the Pentagon and two into the World Trade Center towers in New York City. The fourth plane crashed just outside Shanksville, Pa. Of the almost 3,000 victims, 184 died in the Pentagon attack.

“I don’t think people will forget,” said Army Capt. Kent Solheim, 24, of Oregon City, Ore., who rode his wheelchair throughout the march. Capt. Solheim’s right leg was injured in the war in Iraq.

Racquel Kelley, 35, of Southeast, was in the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building, just across the Potomac River in Arlington. The computer technician was watching a special television as the first two planes smashed into the towers in Lower Manhattan.

Miss Kelley recalls little more than hearing a loud boom then seeing “lots of smoke, lots of fire.”

“They said I was crying when I woke up,” she said.

Miss Kelley was on a respirator at Washington Hospital Center for a week and hooked up to a smoke inhalator for two weeks. She has not missed an opportunity to be in the Freedom Walk.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “Lets them know I’ve not forgotten. I may not agree with the war, but I support this.”

Don Boland, 44, of Fredericksburg, Va., who walked with his girlfriend, Patricia Espinopa, said the anniversary of the attack should be declared a national holiday.

“People take freedom for granted,” he said. “I think it’s time we woke up.”

The first airplane crashed into the North Tower in New York at 8:45 a.m., and the second struck the South Tower about 20 minutes later. The third plane hit the Pentagon about 40 minutes later, killing 125 service members, Department of Defense employees and contract workers. An additional 59 victims died aboard the plane, which crashed into the west side of the building.

The victims” names are permanently listed on the memorial outside the Pentagon, where benches and reflecting pools are also being constructed. Military officials led marchers yesterday into the Pentagon where average civilians are normally not permitted.

Most of the officials were veterans, including Marine Sgt. Noah Tretter, 30, of Paris, Ill., who was wearing 17 combat medals and service ribbons. He served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Eighty-one family members of the Pentagon victims registered to make the walk.

After the national anthem and prayers at the Lincoln Memorial, the marchers followed a color guard of the Military District of Washington across the Memorial Bridge where the guard was changed and the Pennsylvania National Guard led the way to the Pentagon.

Bleachers across the Pentagon parking lot seated almost all of the marchers while music, including “Amazing Grace” and “America the Beautiful” were performed by the Harlem Gospel Choir and Jazz Ambassadors of the U.S. Army Field Band.

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