FROM THE STARS AND STRIPES ARCHIVES
Bush dedicates Sept. 11 memorial at Pentagon
By JEFF SCHOGOL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 12, 2008
ARLINGTON, Va. – For 27 minutes Thursday, the names of the 184 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon were read aloud.
After each name was read, a sailor rang a bell.
The reading stopped briefly at 8:46 a.m. to commemorate the moment seven years ago when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center.
The solemn tribute was part of Thursday’s ceremony to dedicate the Pentagon Memorial, which is in honor of the men, women and children killed when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Bush acknowledged the memorial cannot replace those who lost friends and family in the Pentagon attack.
“We pray that you will find some comfort among the peace of these grounds,” Bush said. “We pray that you will find strength in knowing that our nation will always grieve with you.”
From now on, the Pentagon will be a place for remembrance of those lost on Sept. 11, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
“The memorial that we dedicate today binds all of America to the dead and to their survivors,” Gates said. “Your suffering and solace, so personal to you, becomes the nation’s as well.”
The spirits of those who died at the Pentagon still linger at the site of the memorial, said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Today we honor the sacrifice of innocent civilians who perished here,” Mullen said. “Today we honor the sacrifice of servicemen and women who fell here. And today we honor the heart-wrenching sacrifice, the quiet courage of those who called these souls, dad, mom, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, friend.”
The monument features benches to commemorate each of the 184 victims who died at the Pentagon on Sept. 11.
Benches face toward the building for those who died there, and they face away from the building for the victims on the plane.
John Yates was less than 100 feet from the spot where Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.
Yates, 57, recounted what happened that day when he made his first visit to the Pentagon Memorial a few weeks ago.
He remembered talking to his wife on the phone that morning about the attacks in New York City.
“Before I hung up, she said, ‘Do me a favor;’ and I said, what’s that?
“She said, ‘Work from underneath your desk for the rest of the day,’” he said.
Yates, of Fredericksburg, Va., laughed and said he would see her that night.
Then the plane hit.
“I have recollections of the TV exploding as this ball of fire comes from behind and me and from my left, and the room went from normal office inside lighting to black, and unbearably hot – the doctors at the Washington Hospital Center estimated that the temperature got up to 1,800 degrees, and it did so in less time than it takes to say it,” he said.
The people on either side of him were killed, but Yates survived with second- and third-degree burns over 38 percent of his body, requiring months of hospitalization.
During his visit to the Pentagon Memorial last month, Yates called the monument, “A fitting tribute and memorial to those who were killed that day.”
Still, he could not bring himself to sit on any of the benches that commemorate the victims.
“I will probably never come to sit on a bench … It should be reserved, if you want to call it, for the family members,” he said.
One of the benches commemorates Patty Mickley, 41, whose sister, Kathy Dillaber, was also in the Pentagon on Sept. 11.
“About 15 minutes after we departed for our separate offices the plane hit the building,” Dillaber said.
Mickley was the youngest for four children, a loving daughter, sister and spouse; and a “wonderful mommy who adored her little girl,” her sister said.
Dillaber fondly remembers picking up Mickley’s daughter early from daycare so the two could hide and surprise Mickley outside the Pentagon.
“It was a fun game, and I don’t know who was more tickled: Patty or her daughter,” Dillaber said.
She also remembers her sister’s funeral, when strangers pulled off the side of the road as the caravan made its way to Arlington National Cemetery.
“People would get out of their car, put their hand on their hearts as we went by … And my mother said, ‘Oh, Patty would think this is too much fuss.’” Dillaber said.
While Dillaber called the Pentagon Memorial beautiful and symbolic, she both loves and hates it.
“I wish it wasn’t here,” she said. “I wish we didn’t have to have the memorial. I wish we could go back seven years. I will always wish I kept her 15 minutes longer that morning. But the memorial is here.”