D.C. marks Sept. 11 with commemorations around the city
WASHINGTON (AP) - Washingtonians and visitors to the capital were marking the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that stunned the city with commemorations Sunday at museums, churches and ballparks.
Washington National Cathedral hosted an interfaith prayer service with Jewish and Muslim groups to start the day. The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History later hosted a ceremony with the Transportation Security Administration and hundreds participated in a Freedom Walk at Arlington National Cemetery to support military families.
At the museum, former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta led a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. and thanked those who have served in the TSA since the agency was created just 70 days after Sept. 11. He said air marshals and federal screeners had been able to preserve the "freedom of mobility" for Americans. Since then, the TSA has screened more than 7 billion travelers and thwarted potential attacks, officials said.
As Mineta toured an exhibit of 9/11 objects at the museum, he recalled tracking the plane that would eventually slam into the Pentagon. At that point, as many as 10 planes were still unaccounted for in U.S. airspace, and Mineta ordered them out of the air. One deputy suggested they come down at the pilots' discretion.
"I said, `Monty, screw pilot discretion,"' Mineta said.
Mineta said he would always be grateful for the people on Flight 93 who stopped the plane from reaching a city, possibly to strike a political target in Washington.
Elizabeth Pero-Swingle, accompanied by her 5-year-old daughter Sydney, visited the museum in her blue TSA uniform. Pero-Swingle, a 32-year-old TSA officer at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, sang the national anthem for the ceremony. Ten years ago, Pero-Swingle was studying opera at an Arizona college. After 9/11, she felt a call to serve and joined TSA in 2005.
"I was just so thrilled to be part of the government, just to serve - period," she said.
Albert Haywood, 60, of Detroit, who was also at the exhibit, said he wanted to be back in Washington for the anniversary because he had been working as a security director for the American Red Cross in the city when the attacks happened. Haywood brought his wife, Ilene, to visit the museum because they knew objects from Sept. 11 were on view there.
"The people who were actually here are going to appreciate this even more," Haywood said of the exhibit. "And it's good for the people that weren't here too."
The Newseum was offering free admission and will show ceremonies from New York and Washington on its jumbo screen. Outside the journalism museum, visitors lined the sidewalks to see the front pages of newspapers 10 years later. The Chicago Tribune ran the headline "We remember," with a photograph of the smoldering New York site from Sept. 12, 2001. The front page from The Arizona Republic featured memories from readers summed up in six words. Some of the first lines read: "There's a hole in the world," "Angry that they changed my life," and "Began: United Police States of America."
At the Arlington National Cemetery, several hundred people participated in a Freedom Walk sponsored by Operation Homefront, which supports military families.
Lea Pfeifer, 37, of Falls Church, Va., took part in the walk with her husband, Eric, and their 2-year-old son. "I will never forget my experience that morning," Pfeifer said. "I think we carry that horror with us every day."
Vivian Dietrich of Leesburg, who helped organize the Freedom Walk, said the cemetery was the perfect place to commemorate 9/11 and recognize the service of those who gave their lives for their country.
"When you walk in here, you realize each headstone has its story," Dietrich said.
Dietrich was living in Alexandria and her husband worked at the Pentagon when it was hit 10 years ago. "I sat there knowing full well that it was his office building that had been hit." Her husband survived and later served in Iraq.
At an afternoon football game between the Giants and the Redskins - teams from the two cities hit by the terrorist attacks - the anniversary was to be observed in many ways. Family members affected by the plane that struck the Pentagon and players from both teams were to help hold an American flag, covering the entire field, as the national anthem was sung. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was to be the Redskins' honorary captain for the coin toss.
On Sunday night, President Barack Obama planned to join a service organized by the cathedral at the Kennedy Center.