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Victims of 9/11 Honored and Remembered

Commemorative ceremonies held throughout the area.

Flags were raised and lowered, music was played and monies were collected last week as Mount Vernon schools, churches and communities did their part to ensure that victims of 9-11 were not forgotten.

Many Fairfax County schools participated in ceremonies to commemorate the tragedy that transpired three years ago. Last Friday, Carl Sandburg Middle School had a special ceremony in front of the school in memory of Sept. 11.

Firefighters from Mount Vernon District Station, police from Mount Vernon and middle school students watched as Charlie Burts and Joe LaBrie played the drum and bugle as the Freedom Flag was raised.

Also attending the ceremony was Capt. Phillips from the Franconia Fire Station. Phillips is the brother-in-law of Elaine Jones, who works in the front office. It was Jones who decided to act on the letter sent to Fairfax County schools about the Freedom Flags that were available for purchase. These specially designed flags are Virginia's official state symbol of remembrance for 9/11. Created by Richard Melito of Richmond, they were raised at more than a thousand schools internationally on the eve of the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Young people need to be reminded how fragile our freedom truly is," said Melito, who is the president of the Freedom Flag Foundation. "Our efforts to make this flag a state symbol of remembrance in Virginia, and hopefully soon an official national symbol for the U.S., is our way of promoting education about our freedoms and honoring those people who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks three years ago."

On the flag, a blue background symbolizes all Americans united for freedom. The white star stands for all who lived and died for freedom. The five white bars symbolize the Pentagon and the organized protection of our freedom. The top red strip is for the bloodshed of those who perished at the Pentagon and the crew and passengers on American Airlines Flight 77. The two broad red stripes are for the World Trade Center and the bloodshed of the people who died there and on American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175.

The three white stripes are for the rescue workers, firefighters, police officers, Port Authority employees and others who worked tirelessly during and after the terrorist attacks.

The bottom red stripe is in memory of the crew and passengers who perished on United Airlines Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

WHEN JONES RECEIVED the letter, she asked Donna Pasteur, principal of Carl Sandburg, if it was all right for her family to purchase the flag and donate it to the school. Pasteur agreed. When school started, Jones and others collaborated on putting together the ceremony.

Jones asked her brother-in-law to attend; he in turn asked Lt. Chris Thompson from Mount Vernon Station Nine. Thompson said that he was happy to oblige and brought with him firefighters Ray Beaver, Luis Mata, Jared Goff, Donald Rohr and Mark Crawford.

"If you need anything, just call us," Thompson said to Pasteur. "The kids are our bread and butter."

Janel Mainor, the social studies department chair who helped to facilitate the ceremony, read the Certificate of Recognition. After the certificate established the purpose of the flag, it went on to proclaim:

"Now, Therefore, I, Mark R. Warner, do hereby proclaim the Freedom Flag as the Commonwealth of Virginia's official symbol of Sept. 11, 2001; and direct that a copy of this proclamation be transmitted to Richard Nicholas Melito on behalf of the Freedom Flag foundation so that members of the Foundation may be apprised of this proclamation, and further I do hereby call the designation of the Freedom Flag as an official Virginia symbol or remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001, to the attention of all our citizens."

OVER THE WEEKEND, Wilton Woods held its Annual 9/11 Commemoration and Celebration of Community in the Wilton Woods Memorial Garden, which was created and dedicated by members of the Wilton Woods community.

Sam McCutchen, who opened the ceremonies, described it as a focal point. "It's a place where people come to reflect; a place where teachers bring their students; a place where parents bring their children; a place where grandparents bring their grandchildren; and a place where residents bring their out-of-town guests."

Lynn Hiltajczuk, who came up the idea of the garden to honor victims of 9/11, said, "Part of the plan was that this would be a place to be together, and it's worked out very well."

She said that the community holds wreath and plant sales to raise money to maintain the garden. They recently received a boost when the adjoining neighborhood, Shadow Walk at Wilton Woods, came up with funds to build a brand new sidewalk.

"We just got the walk. I goes from the garden to the playground," Hiltajczuk said.

FUNDRAISING for the Pentagon Memorial Fund was on the minds of many. Ann Smith, widow of Lt. Col. Gary Smith, coordinated a 1950's dance at Good Shepherd Catholic Church to raise money for the fund.

"Gary was a big Elvis fan, so in keeping in the spirit of him, we hired an Elvis impersonator" said Smith, who lost her husband on 9/11.

More than 200 people attended the dance and Smith said, "It went so well. I'm extremely pleased — very pleased with the turnout."

Smith said that many of the guests brought food and that she had a lot of help.

"Everybody's been so supportive — my family, friends, neighbors, teachers from Washington Mill [where she used to work]. We've already raised $7,000 and are still counting." Money will be given to the Pentagon Memorial Fund, which will be used to build the memorial on the grounds of the Pentagon.

Some local Waynewood residents decided to raise money for the fund as well by putting their talents to good use. Beats Workin', a local band consisting of Dan McDermott. Jamie Hutchinson, Susan Jaquet, Lewis Leibowitz, Jay McConville, Dan Poneman and Tony Snow did a benefit concert at The Barking Dog Bar/Restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland. Proceeds of $500 went to the Pentagon Memorial Foundation. About 150 people came in for the night.