To remember those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the people of Arlington gathered with first responders and local officials in Courthouse Plaza Saturday morning for a special ceremony.
Only miles from the Pentagon, where one of three hijacked planes crashed that day in 2001, County Board member Barbara Favola lead the crowd in a moment of silence. Favola said the solemn event was designed to "honor the memories of those who were lost and injured on that fateful morning and we also come together to honor those who responded to those tragedies in a brave and heroic manner."
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) echoed Favola's remarks and encouraged the audience of more than 100 spectators to "reflect on how each of us can do our part to make this a stronger, safer and more peaceful world, not only for ourselves but for generations of Americans to come. That must be the legacy of 9-11."
AT PRECISELY 9:37 A.M., Favola rang a silver bell beside the podium. A procession of police, sheriff's officers and local officials followed, ringing it 184 times to honor each of the victims who died at the Pentagon. A set of police buglers then played "The Star-Spangled Banner. "
Before the ceremony, firefighter Capt. Michael Smith took a moment to recount his work at the site of the Pentagon attack.
"In thinking back to that day, I remember the huge human loss this nation suffered," he said. Smith, who served at Fire Station Eight that day, which was the first fire fighting crew to reach the Pentagon, said the images he carries are still fresh in his mind. "At first we were just caught up in just doing our job, but after a while, I had a chance to look around and see the debris from the plane," he said. "I looked down and saw a somebody's flip-flop, a toothbrush, personal items. It was just so very sad."
Arlington Police Chief Douglass Scott remembered where he was that day, serving as a federal employee at the Inspector General's Office.
"We were evacuated, and for months afterward, I drove by the Pentagon each morning," he said "That's part of what motivated me to return to law enforcement work, because the operations side of me wanted to get back into it."
On the anniversary, Scott added, "It's important to pause on this day for the victims, and we should also take a moment to recognize the outstanding response of Arlington's emergency teams."
County Sheriff Beth Arthur recalled how her office responded on 9/11, coordinating security for Arlington's courts and offices.
"I like to look back on the positives that rose out of the tragedy, how America came together as a nation and the patriotism that shined so brightly in the days that followed."
The sheriff's office was also tasked with securing the Pentagon crash site and helping rescuers. Arthur said her deputies provided more than 1,000 meals for them as they worked.
In the audience, Arlington resident Jack Sawicki and his son Scott Alexander observed the ceremony. Sawicki, former chair of Arlington's Emergency Medical Commission, said the county had began planning for possible terrorist scenarios as a early as 1996.
"We were a little better prepared than other parts of the country," he said. Looking over at his son, Sawicki added, "He's been learning about this stuff through TV and I wanted to bring him out here to see how the biggest message of what happened is that people worked together in a crisis, how they came together for one another."