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Olympic Ceremony Honors Pentagon Heroes

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2001 – Every four years, the Olympics unite the international community. This year, Olympic officials brought the Olympic flame to the Pentagon to honor the heroes and victims of the Sept. 11 attack that united the nation and the world in its war against terrorism.

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Navy Chief Petty Officer Bernard Brown carries the Olympic flame through a cordon of 184 American flags Dec. 21, 2001, during a ceremony at the Pentagon's River Parade Field. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 hosted the ceremony to honor the heroes and 184 victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Brown's 11-year-old son, Bernard Jr., was aboard the hijacked jet that crashed into the Pentagon. Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"Sadly, inspiration sometimes is found in tragedy," said Cindy Gillespie, vice president of the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee for the Winter Games of 2002. "I know that we all look at the events of Sept. 11, and know that from the actions of those on that day and since that day, we have found inspiration as a nation. We have been united as never before."

The Olympic torch was lit Nov. 19 in Olympia, Greece, and brought to the United States Dec. 4. For 65 days, 11,500 torchbearers will carry the flame throughout the United States.

"Those torchbearers were all chosen because they symbolize inspiration," Gillespie said. Olympic officials decided to host a unique ceremony at the Pentagon with 14 people representing "all those so deeply impacted by the terrorist attack," she said.

The passing of one torch symbolized all the heroes from that day.

"Today's ceremony is really very simple," Gillespie said, "one flame, one torch, one moment of remembrance and tribute, and one people united in hope for the future."

One hundred twenty-five people were killed on the ground at the Pentagon: 22 soldiers; 47 Army civilians; six Army contractors; 33 sailors; six Navy civilians; three Navy contractors; and eight other DoD employees. Another 64 people, including five assailants, perished aboard the American Airlines passenger jet that slammed into the military headquarters.

David Theall, an Army employee who risked his life to help others during the attack, was among those chosen to pass the torch. "I think this is a wonderful tribute to all of the men and women who wear the uniform of our nation's military," he said. "It's such an appropriate tribute to those who died here on Sept. 11." Navy Cdr. George Navas said he was proud and honored to be chosen to pass the torch. Earlier in the week, he said, he received a Meritorious Service Medal from the Navy secretary for his efforts Sept. 11.

"In retrospect," Navas said, "if it would bring my friends back, I'd give it back in a heart beat."

Navy Chief Petty Officer Bernard Brown was first to receive the torch upon its arrival at the Pentagon's River Parade Field. Brown's 11-year-old son Bernard was among the Flight 77 passengers who died in the crash. Several of Brown's staff members assigned to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans, Policy and Operations, Naval Command, also died in the attack.

Brown bore the torch through a cordon of 184 American flags, one for each victim, before passing it on to the first of the 14 other participants. Each, in turn, then passed the torch to the person on his or her left:

  • Army Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell, military assistant to the Army deputy assistant chief of staff for installation management, sustained burns to more than 40 percent of his body and was released on Dec. 5 from Washington Hospital Center.
  • Lori Reeder Burroughs and Samuel Cardenas work for the assistant secretary of the Navy in the Office of Financial Management and Comptroller. On Sept. 11, they were in their office in the direct path of the plane's impact in the Pentagon. They helped evacuate a handicapped person who without their assistance may not have been able to escape from the building. Because of their action, that person, Ms. Gail Wirick, was in the Pentagon Olympic torch ceremony.
  • Navy Lt. Kelly Ennis, aide-de-camp to the vice chief of naval operations, assisted in the rescue effort by suiting up with firemen and leading them to offices near the impact area because of his knowledge of the layout of fourth floor offices. Carl Mahnken sustained a head injury from the blast and narrowly escaped his destroyed office. The Army civilian employee assisted a burn victim and monitored him for shock. He continued to assist military and civilian doctors and nurses in treating several serious burn victims and helped to load these victims onto air medevac and ground transport.
  • For many days after the attack on the Pentagon, Army Sgt. Gary Massoud and his unit served tirelessly during the recovery operations in the support area at the Pentagon. Massoud is the section sergeant of the U.S. Army Caisson Platoon at nearby Fort Myer, Va. His unit is responsible for the horse drawn carriage that takes service men and women to their final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery. The unit participated in several of the funerals for victims of the attack.
  • Teri Maude represented the spouses of victims of the Pentagon attack. Her husband, Lt. Gen. Timothy Maude, was the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel and the senior ranking officer killed on Sept. 11.
  • Army Col. Philip A. McNair, the executive officer to the deputy chief of staff for personnel, was in a meeting when the plane struck. After helping co-workers evacuate the burning building, he went back into the first floor and helped to save seven sailors.
  • Keith Morris represented his mother, Odessa Morris, a budget analyst in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army for Personnel, who was killed during the attack. The 17-year-old is a senior at Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Md.
  • Navy Cmdr. George Navas assisted in evacuating personnel from the Pentagon, and helped move those injured to the triage area. He helped unload supplies for emergency personnel, directed fire fighting teams through the Pentagon, and accompanied battalion fire chiefs through the damaged areas, providing a first-hand account of interior damage to the building.
  • Army Sgt. Kenneth Noe, assigned to the Military District of Washington's Engineer Co., is the Army's only collapsed building rescue company. Noe and members of his unit reported to the scene at the Pentagon immediately following the terrorist attack, and spent many long hours and days sifting through the debris to locate and recover victims.
  • Navy Capt. David M. Thomas Jr. and Lt. Cdr. David Tarantino went to the damaged area immediately after the strike and entered the destroyed Navy Command Center through one of two holes created by the blast. Thomas is the executive assistant for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans, Policy, and Operations. Tarantino is a flight surgeon and family practitioner assigned to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs. The men had to beat back flames with a fire extinguisher to enter the room to search for survivors. Together, they discovered and extricated severely injured and pinned Jerrell Henson
  • David Theall, an Army civilian employee, assisted survivors and the medical personnel treating them and continued to do so in spite of his own injuries and with complete disregard for his own safety.
  • Army Sgt. Christopher Braman went back inside the burning Pentagon, risking his life to save three peopleone of whom survived. He carried the torch off the Parade Grounds at the close of the Pentagon Olympic ceremony.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDavid Theall, who risked his life during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon to help in the triage area on the helipad in close proximity to the ensuing fire and secondary explosions, passes the Olympic torch to Army Sgt. Christopher Braman during a ceremony honoring the heroes and 184 victims of the attack. Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Sgt. Christopher Braman, carries the Olympic flame at the conclusion of a Dec. 21, 2001, ceremony at the Pentagon honoring the heroes and 184 victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Braman, who risked his life to save three people, one of whom survived, risk his life to retrieve the Marine Corps Flag in the Pentagon. Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Chief Petty Officer Bernard Brown, whose 11-year-old son died in the American Airlines flight that terrorists crashed into the Pentagon Sept. 11, holds an extinguished Olympic torch following a Dec. 21, 2001, ceremony at the Pentagon. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 hosted the ceremony to honor the heroes and 184 victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Cdr. George Navas, who helped evacuate people during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, holds an extinguished Olympic torch following a Dec. 21, 2001, ceremony at the Pentagon honoring the heroes and 184 victims of the attack. The commander said he'd gladly give back the Meritorious Service Medal he received from the Navy secretary for his actions that day if he could only have his colleagues back. Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn  
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