On the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Washington, D.C., area remembers 184 lives lost at the Pentagon with ceremonies that are different than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley hosted the virtual remembrance outside the Pentagon, where 19 years ago hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the building.
Milley said those killed in the Pentagon attack believed in American ideals of freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He said terrorists tried to destroy those mores, but Americans pulled together and persevered.
“Let us resolve yet again here today, to never forget those murdered by the terrorists,” Milley said in his speech. “Honor them today and forever and honor the cause they served.”
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Esper praised the courage of first responders who rushed into the Pentagon to rescue others and engineers who managed to keep the building's essential defense functions operating.
“These heroes demonstrated to the world, especially to our enemies, the resilience of America’s armed forces and of our people," Esper said.
Their comments were made to a small, invitation-only crowd outside the defense headquarters. Almost everyone wore a mask.
One traditional tribute did not change. Just as the sun rose on Friday, an American flag was unfurled over the Pentagon.
The annual display calls back to the moment on Sept. 12, 2001, when first responders hoisted the stars and stripes near the wreckage. To many, it was a symbol of America's resilience.
Arlington County, home to the Pentagon, conducted its annual Sept. 11 ceremony as a virtual event.
A remembrance ceremony was livestreamed on the county's website to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic. The program was set to include a presentation of colors by a county honor guard, followed by a wreath laying at the county government center.
A moment of silence was scheduled for 9:37 a.m., the moment the plane struck the Pentagon.
Prince William County, which lost 22 residents in the attack, released a memorial video instead of holding in-person ceremonies.