Pentagon 9-11 Ceremony Will Send Variety of Messages
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2002 When the eyes of the world turn to the Pentagon Sept. 11, they will see a reconstructed Pentagon with a work force mourning its dead, but united in pushing forward to win the war on terrorism, said Richard McGraw, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's point man for the Sept. 11 anniversary.
McGraw, deputy assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs, said the location of the ceremony sends a number of messages to different audiences.
"One of the messages we're trying to send to the world is that the Pentagon is whole and that the Department of Defense is as strong as ever," he said. "And to the terrorists, (it says) you're not safe and wherever you are, we're coming to get you."
The first proposal was to hold the anniversary ceremony at the Pentagon's River Terrace, he said. That area, the site of DoD's October 2001 memorial service, holds around 30,000 people.
While construction at the attack site is finished inside, he said, the area outside is still a construction zone. Nevertheless, DoD officials decided it was more appropriate to hold the ceremony there, he noted.
McGraw said the area would hold about 13,500 people. The area is being floored, and massive, 40-foot-high bleachers will ring it. President and Mrs. Bush will lead the ceremony from a stage set right where the plane struck the building.
The ceremony Sept. 11 will proceed regardless of weather conditions, McGraw said. He expects about 2,000 family members of those killed and wounded in the attack at the ceremony, and DoD has invited representatives from local jurisdictions that helped in rescue efforts after the attack.
"I'm trying to keep as many seats for employees of the Pentagon as possible," he said. However, the area is constrained.
Plans call for President Bush, Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers to address the crowd. The department has invited all 535 members of Congress to the event, but McGraw allows that many will probably be attending memorial services in their home districts.
He said three elements comprise the ceremony. "First, of course, is the families and those wounded in the attack," he said. "We must recognize the terrible loss they have suffered, to acknowledge the price they paid, and to express the nation's condolences."
The department also must recognize the dedication to duty exhibited by the contractors, who set a self-imposed deadline to have people back in the Pentagon less than a year after the attack. "It's a remarkable feat, and the patriotism among those folks is palpable," McGraw said.
The third element is to send a message that DoD, American men and women in other agencies and the coalitions working with the United States around the world are prosecuting the war against terrorism vigorously. "We're recognizing the importance of the coalition by inviting all ambassadors and defense attaches in Washington to the ceremony," he said.
McGraw said the challenge was to put together a ceremony that combined the three objectives. "We need to put those together so they are harmonious and don't look disjointed, (and that the ceremony's not) a funeral on one extreme or a cheerleading event on the other," he said. "We had to strike a balance among those things, and I think we have with the program."