On that clear and bright morning two years ago, before terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Vienna residents Margaret Dellinger and her husband, Dan, were attending a speech sponsored by the American Legion on Capitol Hill. At 9:50 a.m., as they were sitting in the Cannon House Office Building, Capitol police suddenly began rounding people up to escort them out of the building and onto the street.
When Dellinger was exiting, she heard something about planes hitting the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As she gradually began to piece together what had happened, a plane shot by above them. A police officer, who heard her gasp, assured her that the plane was "one of ours."
"I suffered the loss of Americans, as an American," said Dellinger, president of the American Legion Auxiliary for Virginia, recalling that morning, as she spoke at a Vienna event commemorating that day.
Several town officials and staff, American Legion Post 180 members, representatives from the Vienna Police and the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department, and area citizens gathered last Thursday, Sept. 11, to remember the tragedy that befell the country two years before. Held next to the Freeman House, the ceremony included a reading by Vienna mayor Jane Seeman of the town's proclamation, as well as the tolling of bells by four nearby churches commemorating the times when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania farmland.
"That day is more distant now, but we must not forget," prayed Vienna Police chaplain and Faith Baptist Church pastor Bob Lemon.
After the Vienna Police Department Color Guard presented the colors and the Vienna Community Band Trombone Quartet performed "The Star-Spangled Banner," patriotism was the theme of several remarks by the event's speakers.
"Let's teach our children, we must guard our freedom carefully," said Joyce Miller, commander of the 17th District for the American Legion.
Guest speaker Michael E. Ennis, brigadier general for the U.S. Marine Corps, reminded the audience why the United States intervened in countries like Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. Although the United States has frozen assets, captured key leaders and made communication harder among the enemy, the country's war on terrorism is far from over, Ennis said. Only by reaching out to the people whose countries have participated in terrorism can the United States achieve its goal, Ennis added.
"Nine-eleven is a day of remembrance, obviously. The fact that those people died is tragic. ... But if that is our focus, I think we've missed the larger significance of the day," Ennis said.
"In order to break the cycle ... we have to go to where it starts," he said.