President Bush today participated in one of several events across the Washington region honoring victims of the September 11 terrorists attacks, including a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon, where 184 victims were killed.
Mr. Bush was joined on the South Lawn of the White House by his wife, Laura, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cabinet members and White House employees, including janitors and kitchen workers, to observe a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the exact time in 2001 that terrorists slammed the first of two hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York.
Mr. Bush stood sternly as the Marine band, stationed behind him on the South Portico of the White House, played “God Bless America.” Mrs. Bush then took his arm, and they walked inside along with Mr. Cheney, who was accompanied by his wife, Lynne.
Most of the other events in the region began at 9:37 a.m., when the third plane, American Airlines flight 77, crashed into the west side of the Pentagon, across the Potomac River from the District, in Arlington.
Family members of the 184 victims of the Pentagon attack attended a wreath-laying ceremony there under dark clouds and a warm drizzle. The private event also included a moment of silence and speeches honoring the victims and service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates were among those who gave speeches.
Mr. Gates told the roughly 150 family members that the military would continue to pursue and defeat its enemies, especially terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, that carried out the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Today the entire nation joins with you, he said. You have never been and never will be alone in your sorrow.
Mr. Gates and Gen. Pace laid the wreath at the site of the attack, where a building stone charred by the fiery plane crash has been engraved with the date and reset into the renovated structure.
“We cannot touch our loved ones today,” Gen. Pace said, his voice choking with emotion. “Therefore, we ask God to hug them for us, that they might know that we love them and we miss them and we’ll serve this nation in their honor.”
In a ceremony at the Arlington County Justice Center, a short distance from the Pentagon, elected officials, police and firefighters took turns ringing a large bell 184 times.
“It’s profound to think that each time that bell struck is like the life of an innocent victim,” said U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat. “I would hope it would generate even more resolve so it is not repeated in the future.”
This story is based in part on wire service reports.