Thousands Mark 9/11 With 'America Supports You Freedom Walk'
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2005 Today marked the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, and to commemorate that tragic event the Defense Department held the first "America Supports You Freedom Walk."
People of all ages take part in the America Supports You Freedom Walk on Sept. 11, 2005, beginning at the Pentagon. The walk of remembrance and support is an event allowing citizens the opportunity to remember the victims of Sept. 11, honor American servicemembers, past and present, and commemorate Americans' freedom. Photo by Helene C. Stikkel
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
"This is a day for us to remember all those loved ones that were lost, and everyone who suffered so much that day," Gordon England, acting deputy secretary of defense, said prior to the walk.
Officials estimated that thousands took part in the walk to honor American servicemembers, past and present, and to embrace this country's freedom.
"It is a day to remember the first responders and all those who came to the rescue," England said, "and a day to remember all those who wear the cloth of our nation around the world, who protect and defend the freedoms and liberties that we so cherish."
The walk participants began assembling in the Pentagon parking lot at 8 a.m.
Bill O'Donnell was one of the first to arrive with his wife, Darlene, and daughter, Amber.
"I work in the Pentagon, and I was here on 9/11. And I thought this would be a good way to both commemorate the event and support our troops," O'Donnell said. "I think it's very important that everybody needs to remember exactly what happened that day and the sacrifices our military make to maintain our freedom and liberty."
At 9:37 a.m. there was a moment of silence to commemorate the exact instant the terrorists drove American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 184 people.
The two-mile walk began promptly at 10 a.m., with participants pouring out of the parking lot. The walkers crossed the Memorial Bridge from Virginia into Washington, and ended their commemorative trek at the JFK Hockey Field adjacent to the World War II Memorial on the National Mall.
As the walkers arrived on the mall, they were treated to a free musical tribute to the troops from the group "Little Big Town" and country music star Clint Black.
Dwight Richard said he was walking to show his support for American servicemembers. "We need to support the troops, regardless of our political affiliation," Richard said. "It is wrong what happened to the troops who came home from Vietnam."
Added Lou Valencia: "The troops put their lives on the line for us, so they deserve our support," he said.
Plans are already underway for next year's walk, with the goal of starting an annual tradition to commemorate 9/11 by having each state to hold its own "America Supports You Freedom Walk."
America Supports You, is a nationwide program launched by the Department of Defense to highlight how Americans across the country are supporting the men and women of the armed forces.