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Memorial Tree Honors Child Victims of Sept. 11

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2004 – A newly planted weeping cherry tree on the grounds of the Pentagon will serve as a living memorial to the children killed or who lost parents during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the building.

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Carol Carter, president of the National Capital Area Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc., spreads soil around the newly planted children's memorial tree at the Pentagon, Nov. 9. With her are, from left, Tara Speisman, who lost her father in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack; Ralph Newton, director of Defense Facilities Directorate for Washington Headquarters Services; and Darryl Kosisky, the Pentagon's chief landscape architect. Photo by Donna Miles

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A group of Pentagon officials, friends and families of those killed in the attack and representatives of local garden clubs gathered today for a ceremonial tree planting. The ceremony took place just outside the Pentagon's busy subway entrance and bus terminal, the busiest mass-transit point in Northern Virginia.

During the ceremony, Ralph Newton, director of Defense Facilities Directorate for Washington Headquarters Services, helped scatter soil and ashes around the tree taken from the debris of the crash site.

Joining him was Tara Speisman, whose father, Bob Speisman, was aboard the American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon; Darryl Kosisky, the Pentagon's chief landscape architect; and Carol Carter, president of the National Capital Area Federal of Garden Clubs, Inc., which sponsored the event.

Newton said the memorial tree will serve as a constant reminder to the more than 34,000 Pentagon workers, commuters and visitors to the Washington area who will pass it daily.

But no one is likely to find it more meaningful, he acknowledged, than those who lost loved ones or friends or who work in the building the terrorists targeted. "That day is a constant in our hearts," he said.

Speisman said she hoped the memorial tree would help others remember her father and others killed in "an act of unfettered hatred." She urged attendees at the ceremony to "remember the love" extended by those they lost. "Through this love, they will live forever," she said.

Mary Gregerson, chair of the local garden club federation's memorial tree committee, called the new memorial tree a fitting way to recognize those lost and provide "solace, comfort and peace" to those who carry on without them. She said she got the inspiration for the memorial tree after visiting the Pentagon on Sept. 12, 2001, and seeing a lone tree standing amid the devastation of the attack.

Carol Carter, local garden club federation president, said the tree's weeping posture represents ongoing sorrow over the losses of the attack. But next spring, when the tree bursts into full bloom, Carter said, it will represent hope, rebirth and life.

"To plant a tree is to believe in the future," said Shirley Nicolai, a vice president for National Garden Clubs, Inc.

Seventh grader Zachary Jongema, who with his brother Matthew, played taps at the end of the ceremony, said it held special significance to him. Zachary's fellow Boy Scout, Bo Dolan, lost his father, Navy Capt. Bob Dolan, in the attack.

"I like to think that I'm playing for him, Mr. Bob Dolan," he said.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA memorial plaque near the children's memorial tree at the Pentagon honors "the children who perished and those who lost parents on Sept. 11, 2001." Photo by Donna Miles  
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