Under rainy skies, town residents, officials and American Legion members gathered on the lawn of the Freeman House the morning of Monday, Sept. 11 to reflect on the tragic events of that day five years earlier.
The ceremony included a proclamation of remembrance by Mayor Jane Seeman and a talk from Ron Miluszewski, a member of Arlington's American Legion Post 139 and a director at Virginia Hospital Center, where many victims of the Pentagon attack were treated.
The mayor's proclamation, written in 2002 and presented each Sept. 11, resolved that the ceremony should be held every year to memorialize those "whose lives were suddenly, without cause and pointlessly taken from them on Sept. 11, 2001."
Miluszewski recalled the events of that day at the hospital, beginning with employees watching reports of a plane crash in New York and having no idea what was about to happen in their own backyard. At 9:45 a.m., he said, they received a call alerting them to a possible plane crash at the Pentagon, and they scrambled to prepare for incoming patients.
Shortly, a staff of nearly 50 doctors and over 100 nurses was on hand. "With that many people standing in front of the emergency room, the silence of everyone was incredible," he recalled. The first patient arrived at 10:35, smelling of jet fuel and burnt flesh.
One of the day's most moving moments, said Miluszewski, was when he saw a pair of young service men with minor injuries watching the news in the waiting room. "As tears rolled down their cheeks, they ripped off their disaster tags and wanted to go back to the Pentagon because their comrades needed them," he said.
He held up one of the disaster tags from that day, explaining how patients were triaged and color-coded according to the severity of their injuries.
In all, Virginia Hospital Center treated 44 patients from the Pentagon — more than any other hospital in the area.
On the day of the attacks, he said, the hospital staff and the larger community "demonstrated an unshakable character and a rich fabric of unity in the wake of the disaster. And in doing so, we honored the memories of those who lost their lives.
— Mike DiCicco