Pentagon Plans Private 9/11 Remembrance

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma will join Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pen­ta­gon Memo­r­i­al on Sept. 11 to hon­or the mem­o­ry of vic­tims of the 2001 ter­ror­ist attack.

This is a pri­vate remem­brance for the fam­i­ly mem­bers of those lost in the ter­ror­ist attack and is not open to the pub­lic, offi­cials said.

The remem­brance — includ­ing a wreath lay­ing, a moment of silence and the play­ing of “Amer­i­ca the Beau­ti­ful” — will begin at about 9:30 a.m. EDT, and is expect­ed to last less than an hour. The pres­i­dent, the sec­re­tary and the chair­man will pro­vide remarks.

Nine years after the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attack on the Pen­ta­gon, vis­i­tors come night and day to reflect and hon­or the vic­tims at the memo­r­i­al. Just west of the Defense Depart­ment head­quar­ters, the memo­r­i­al park fea­tures 184 stain­less steel bench­es, one for each vic­tim of the attack, each set over a light­ed pool of water.

Cyn­thia Koe­bel­er and Bren­da Abplanalp, co-work­ers and long­time friends from Indi­anapo­lis, vis­it­ed the park Sept. 7, just days before the ninth anniver­sary of the attack.

On a warm day with a blue sky, and with the Pen­ta­gon loom­ing large in the back­ground, Koe­bel­er and Abplanalp were will­ing to dis­cuss what they agreed was a fit­ting memo­r­i­al to the vic­tims of the attack.

“The lights under­neath, you want to reflect back and for­ward,” Koe­bel­er said. “I guess I think that’s what the lights mean. You’re reflect­ing this way — we thought we were imper­vi­ous to all this. But we did get attacked, and it reminds you of how many inno­cents are here.”

Koe­bel­er said she hasn’t been to the nation’s cap­i­tal in a long time. She was vis­it­ing at the invi­ta­tion of Abplanalp, whose hus­band makes fre­quent trips to the city.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been to D.C., and I just want­ed to see the 9/11 memo­r­i­al,” Koe­bel­er said. “Ear­ly on, it was too raw. But now it feels — it is nine years — I just want to see what the com­ple­tion was for this memo­r­i­al.”

Abplanalp said she was at work when she heard about the 9/11 attacks, and said there wasn’t much dis­cus­sion among co-work­ers as they watched the news sto­ry unfold on tele­vi­sions in their building’s ele­va­tor lob­by.

“Some­body said a bomb struck the World Trade Cen­ter — we didn’t even know it was an air­plane,” she said. “And just as we went out there, that’s when both build­ings came down. We were stunned, and nobody knew what to say or do. The only thing we were think­ing was, ‘We need to get home.’ ”

Koe­bel­er said she heard of the attacks on the car radio and had to pull off on the side of the road to make sense of it.

“They didn’t say the word ‘attack,’ ” she recalled. “I thought, ‘That’s odd.’ The radio announc­er kept say­ing something’s wrong, the plane had hit the build­ing. I went on to work, and the sec­ond one hit while I was at work. Our whole office just real­ly was qui­et and we gath­ered around, and not too many words were exchanged. We didn’t know what to make of it.”

Abplanalp said the 9/11 attacks have made her think more now about what she does, and that it has affect­ed her life.

“This could hap­pen at any time,” she said. “It keeps you clos­er to your fam­i­ly. You talk to peo­ple that you haven’t talked to in years. You don’t know what will hap­pen.”

She said she and her fam­i­ly have dis­cussed what would hap­pen if an attack were to affect her fam­i­ly more direct­ly than the ones nine years ago.

“We talk about it — not all the time — but we talk about it, espe­cial­ly me and my hus­band,” she said.

Koe­bel­er said she and her fam­i­ly have dis­cussed oth­er poten­tial attacks, pos­si­bil­i­ties beyond what hap­pened on 9/11.

“I think you become more cir­cum­spect, because you think, ‘Where will they go again?’ ” she said. “Instead of New York, maybe it’s Mia­mi. Or maybe it’s not even a bomb. We spec­u­lat­ed about maybe water being taint­ed, or some oth­er way they will get to us. We are doing all of our efforts at the air­port, and maybe they have switched strate­gies, and that’s scary for us. My kids and I talk about that.”

The after­ef­fects of 9/11 are far-reach­ing, espe­cial­ly those relat­ed to the con­flicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Abplanalp said a friend of hers at work has twin sons who serve in the mil­i­tary. And she has seen the effects of the war on that fam­i­ly.

Her friend’s son, she said, had tak­en a life in com­bat dur­ing his deploy­ment and now suf­fers from post-trau­mat­ic stress syn­drome from that expe­ri­ence.

“He suf­fers from PTSD — that’s the first time he’s killed some­body,” she said. “I think that’s when it became real for her. Lis­ten­ing to her talk about it, I was cry­ing because of what hap­pened to her son. I can only imag­ine if it was my son. I’m scared for them, and I hate when they have to go over there. I can only imag­ine being a par­ent of that son or daugh­ter and hav­ing to send them over to fight.”

While nei­ther Koe­bel­er nor Abplanalp knew vic­tims of the 9/11 attacks per­son­al­ly, sev­er­al employ­ees from their com­pa­ny were either injured or killed in the attack on the World Trade Cen­ter tow­ers in New York City. Their com­pa­ny had an office there. They agree the attacks have changed every­thing for them.

“I don’t like all the loss of life,” Koe­bel­er said of the result­ing wars. “Every night I turn on the local sta­tion, and some­body has lost his life — that’s sad. It has changed our world out­look.”

“It’s put our world on edge,” Abplanalp said. “It keeps their eyes open.”

Though the Sept. 11 remem­brance event will be pri­vate, the memo­r­i­al oth­er­wise is open to vis­i­tors 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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