- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 11, 2008

President Bush led a moment of silence Thursday morning at the White House to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, then went across the Potomac River to dedicate a memorial at the Pentagon, where 184 people were killed.

Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense, said at the Pentagon: “Today as we dedicate this memorial, we also dedicate ourselves to never forget what happened here, and we make a solemn pledge to never again let this happen in America.”

“God bless the fallen, their families and all who sacrifice for freedom and liberty,” Mr. England said.

On one side of a Pentagon parking lot, nearly 3,000 flags flew to mark all the lives lost on Sept. 11.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld talked of the horrific events that caused the lives of Pentagon workers and airplane passengers to be lost on that day.

He mourned those who “one morning kissed their loved ones goodbye, went off to work and never came home” and the airline passengers “who in the last moments made phone calls to loved ones and prayed to the Almighty before their journey ended not far from where it began.”

“It was here that their fates were truly merged forever,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “They fell side by side as Americans and make no mistake, it was because they were Americans that they were killed here in this place.”

This morning’s ceremony included a wreath laying, music and the reading of the names those who died on American Airlines Flight 77 and inside the building.

A sailor rang a bell for each of the victims of the attack on the Pentagon, which followed strikes by airliners commandeered by Al-Qaeda suicide squads on the World Trade Center in New York. A fourth hijacked plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

Amid strains of bagpipes and choirs, relatives of the victims, dignitaries and Pentagon employees watched from stands overlooking the memorial on grounds near the crash site on the east side of the building.

The memorial features 184 benches over small pools of water each bench bearing the name of a person who died. A small light in the pools will illuminate the benches at night.

The benches are arranged by the victims’ ages, so the first one visitors see as they enter is dedicated to Dana Falkenberg, a 3-year-old passenger on American Airlines Flight 77. The is last to retired Navy Capt. John D. Yamnicky Sr., 71, who was also a passenger on the flight.

The two-acre park will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will be patrolled by the Pentagon Police Department. While it is just a short walk from a Metro subway station, it is on a patch of land previously trafficked almost exclusively by Pentagon workers.

Paperbark maple trees have been planted throughout the memorial, selected because they retain their leaves late into fall and turn a deep red when the colors change, said Lea Hutchins, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon Renovation Program.

From the memorial, the rebuilt section of the Pentagon is clearly visible, the new limestone a slightly lighter shade than the old. Planes coming in to nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport fly low and loud along the Potomac River.

“It’s a great feeling of accomplishment,” said Jim Laychak, the president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, who helped to raise the $22 million for construction and is still looking for another $10 million to pay for the memorial’s upkeep. Mr. Laychak’s brother, David Laychak, was killed during the attack on the Pentagon.

Memorials are also planned in New York and western Pennsylvania at the sites where three other hijacked planes hit Sept. 11, but the Pentagon Memorial is the first to be completed.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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