On the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks, thousands of people gathered outside the Pentagon as President Bush dedicated a memorial to the 184 people who died there. VOA's Al Pessin attended the Pentagon ceremony.
A lone bagpiper played the hymn Amazing Grace as he walked among the memorial's trees and benches, emerging behind the elaborate stage set up specially for the event, where he was joined by a U.S. military orchestra.
The solemn occasion began with the reading of the names of all the people killed in the Pentagon, and on the airliner that hijackers crashed into the building.
Among those on the plane, an entire family.
"Charles S. Falkenberg. And his wife, Leslie A. Widdington. And their two children Dana Falkenberg and Zoe Falkenberg..."
The Pentagon ceremony occurred at the same time as events at the other two attack sites in New York and Pennsylvania.
At the Pentagon, President Bush said the new memorial will be "an everlasting tribute," and will remind future generations of what happened here, an event that he said "changed our world forever."
"When they visit this memorial they will learn that the 21st Century began with a great struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror," said Bush. "They will learn that this generation of Americans met its duty. We did not tire, we did not falter and we did not fail. They will learn that freedom prevailed because the desire for liberty lives in the heart of every man, woman and child on earth."
The president said people should also remember that in the years that followed the attacks justice was delivered to the "evil men" who planned them.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates also linked the attacks and the memorial to the ongoing global war on terrorism.
"The truth that survives the ashes is this, the 184 are not forgotten. The others who died in New York and Pennsylvania are not forgotten," said Gates. "And we as a nation will not bow to those who so cruelly took them from us."
And his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, who was defense secretary at the time of the attack said it is important to remember why America is now involved in foreign wars.
"Today we renew our vows to never forget how this long struggle began, and to never forget those who fell first. They fell side by side as Americans," said Rumsfeld. "And make no mistake, it was because they were Americans that they were killed here, in this place."
The memorial is a plaza in the shadow of the rebuilt side of the Pentagon that was destroyed by the hijacked plane seven years ago. A bench, a small pool and a tree memorialize each victim, arranged by their ages, from the youngest, age 3 to the oldest, who was 71.
"It should be a place like no other, simply because that day was like no other. It should be both individual and collective in nature, and make you think, but not prescribe how to think or what to feel," said Keith Kaseman, one of the designers.
"Wish it [the memorial] was not here, but it is. And that is the way it is, and so I want to honor Patty's memory and I want to honor the memory of many of my co-workers out here. They are incredibly good people," said Kathy Dillaber, who was working in the Pentagon that day. She survived, but her sister Patty was killed.
Visitors to the Pentagon Memorial can literally walk the path of American Airlines Flight 77. They can read the names of those killed and pause by the benches in their honor. And they can look up at the restored west wall of the Pentagon with a huge American flag hanging from the roof, just like the one rescue workers put up while the fire still burned seven years ago.