Pentagon Hosts First Responders Appreciation Day
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2003 James Taber, with the Alexandria City Fire Department, said today's First Responders Appreciation Day at the Pentagon is part of the healing process.
"A lot of people have not healed yet," he said.
Asked if he himself has healed, he paused and softly said, "No."
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz takes time to talk with the family of Bronny Lewis, a Pentagon building management employee, during the Pentagon's First Responders Appreciation Day at the building's center courtyard Oct. 18. Earlier during his remarks, Wolfowitz thanked first responders for their work after the 9-11 attack. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Stanton was one of hundreds of first responders who rushed to the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001, to help rescue victims and put out the fire after terrorists crashed a jetliner into the building.
Today, he was joined by hundreds of those same fire, police, medical and military personnel and their families for an event that featured food, children's games, tours of the crash site, music and the Washington Redskins cheerleaders. The event was just part of the Pentagon's way of saying thanks, event organizers said.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told first responders, "There are really no words, no words at all, that can express the gratitude that we in the Department of Defense feel for the very work our first responders did on that historic day.
"You came here and you went into the blazing building anyway; you risked your lives to help us, and you saved many lives in the process," he said. Wolfowitz added first responders did "great things that day" in response to the attack.
"And I want you to know that the men and women of America's armed forces and the civilian leadership of this department will be ever grateful," he said. "We know for sure that we can always count on you, and in return I promise you can count on us."
Wolfowitz said terrorists thought that in the face of the attack of 9-11, Americans would run. "And you did run," he said. "But you didn't run away; you ran straight to the scene of action. To use a military term, you rode to the sound of the guns. And in the process, you showed the whole world what it is to be an American."
For Taber and others, thinking back to Sept. 11 still brings anger. Taber said he's still angry at what happened here more than two years ago.
"That anyone would have the gall to do such a thing," he said. "Every day that I was here, the madder I got. Taber said the scene at the Pentagon site was one of total destruction, "but you had to block everything out and focus on your job, and your job was get as many people out alive as you could, then the firefighting and then the body recovery."
Parran Offer, an officer with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency's police department, said today's event also brought people together, because Sept. 11 was a "sad day for America." He said he is doing better than Taber, but he still thinks about what happened that day.
"I think I've gotten over it, but I still think about it at times." Offer said, "I've only been on that side of the building once since it happened. That last time I went there and saw the names on the wall, especially the children, it kind of got to me. So I don't go over there."
Added his partner, Sgt. Hammie Ashton, of today's events, "It was a very touching moment for all of us."
Raymond DuBois, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, thanked first responders for their bravery, telling them, "You ran to our cry for help. You, in that great tradition of selfless service, you heard our call, and you responded. You gave your all to save lives, and from our hearts we thank you.
"We want thank you for your efforts, for your hard work and for your caring and giving of yourselves to help us in what was our great time of need." DuBois continued. "This national historic landmark, this installation of the United States military was grievously wounded. It has been saved by your efforts and the efforts of many, many people. We want to thank you for what you do as first responders, not just today, but every day."
Quoting the words of his good friend, Doc Cook, who passed away last summer, DuBois told the audience, "Ordinary Americans did extraordinary things that day To us at the Pentagon you are our heroes."