A family of four quietly pushed their baby stroller across the grounds of the Air Force Memorial as the bright sunlight slowly rose over the Pentagon today before the ceremony there to honor the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. There were no television cameras or grand speeches. The people who came all quietly looked at the Pentagon, bowed their heads, and remembered. A man and woman stood silently and paid homage to the men, women, and children who lost their lives to senseless violence and mindless hatred.
The spires of the Air Force Memorial rose high above the walls of the Pentagon where American Airlines flight 77 crashed innocent men, women and children into the west wall leaving a path of death and destruction to those on the plane and to 125 people on the ground. The wall no longer bore that massive black hole that smoked all day 12 years ago; yet the pain of the lost lives was as present as the day they were taken from loved ones. The Americans who gathered at the memorial did not talk but they heard the bell ringing out for each innocent soul lost that day.
At 9:37 a.m., a woman gave a silent salute as the bell rang. The moment that, Hani Hanjour, the 29 year-old pilot who was rejected by his country’s aviation licensing authorities and in his anger and frustration became the pilot of a madman that the world came to know as Osama Bin Laden.
As the names of the victims were read out in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg followed a policy of not allowing any politician to speak. The commemoration in New York kept the focus on the men, women, and children who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
The four statues were 10 feet tall as they stood erect and at attention in their bronze repose. The granite wall behind them spelled out: Valor, Integrity, Service, and Excellence. “The purposefully undefined figures of the Honor Guard soon became recognizable as individuals. The figures came into view as unique people, with faces and bodies infused with life, inspiring connections to the real people who serve and sacrifice. They reflect the diversity of gender and race that strengthens the Air Force and the nation," said Sculptor Zenos Frudakis.
As families gathered to pay their respect to the September 11th victims a security guard patrolled the grounds and Secret Service agents respectfully asked visitors to refrain from walking into the areas that were forbidden due to the security measures taken as President Barack Obama arrived at the Pentagon.
The grounds of the Air Force Memorial were immaculate as workers prepared for the September 11th visitors. A man looked up at the air space that the terrorists invaded on September 11th, 2001, and pointed to the path they flew from Dulles International Airport to divert the plane from its path to Los Angeles to be used as a weapon of mass destruction.
Like Pearl Harbor, the attack on the Pentagon gave no warning. The American Air Force was never given a chance to defend the skies because the terrorists used innocent men, women, and children to shield themselves as they carried out their diabolical conspiracy.
More than 54,000 Airmen have died in combat defending their nation. The Air Force Memorial overlooks the Pentagon and is adjacent to Arlington Cemetery on One Air Force Memorial Drive in Arlington, Virginia. For more information go to: www.airforcememorial.org.