Families Commemorate Sept. 11 at Pentagon

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2006 - Tears flowed freely under the gray sky as family members of those killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gathered outside the Pentagon today to honor the memory of their loved ones.

"Five years ago, Sept. 11 forever ceased to be an ordinary date on the calendar," Vice President Richard B. Cheney said at the Pentagon memorial observance for family members. "So we gather once again to recall events that still have the power to move us and always will. And we honor the men, women and children whose lives were taken so suddenly and so coldly here at the Pentagon, at the World Trade Center and on a field in Pennsylvania."

About 100 family members of those killed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11 attended the ceremony, which included speeches from Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, and music from the U.S. Army Band.

The people who died on Sept. 11 started the day just like everyone else, as free citizens of a peaceful country, but all their hopes and dreams were taken away by the wicked plans of a few men, Cheney said.

"We remember all that we saw and heard and felt on that Tuesday morning and also how much the world changed on the 11th of September, 2001," he said. "9/11 is a day of national unity. The memories stay with all of us because the attack was directed at all of us. We were meant to take it personally, and we still do take it personally."

The anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is a time to remember those killed five years ago and also the servicemembers who have fought and died for the country since that day, Rumsfeld said at the ceremony.

"The highest tribute we can pay to them is to commit ourselves to doing everything possible to fight the extremists wherever they are, to making every effort to stay united as a country, and to give our truly outstanding men and women in uniform all that they need to succeed," Rumsfeld said. "And, I must add, to always give our troops the benefit of the doubt. They deserve it."

Pace also emphasized a message of commitment on behalf of the military. Since Sept. 11, more than 1.3 million Americans have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, and the number of servicemembers killed in the war on terror is approaching the number of people killed on that fateful day, he said.

"It is my privilege, as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ... to recommit to each of you and to the American people that the 2.4 million Americans, active, Guard and reserve, who wear the cloth of this nation today recommit and promise you that we have one very simple message for terrorists -- those who would seek to prevent this kind of a gathering, those who seek to change our way of life -- and that simple message is this: not on our watch," he said.

The nation will not forget the loss the families of the Sept. 11 victims have suffered, Pace said, even though no one may ever understand the depths of pain they have gone through.

"There are no words that can soothe your pain and no way that we can truly understand all the sacrifice that you have made," he said. "We hope in some way that this remembrance today and the ceremonies like it all over our country will tell you that we are with you; we will never forget."

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