Low-Key Ceremonies Are Planned to Mark Sept. 11 Anniversary

Bryan Orcutt, left, and Merton Cummins Meade perform at Leesburg's Freedom Park last year. Leesburg plans a similar ceremony this year.
Bryan Orcutt, left, and Merton Cummins Meade perform at Leesburg's Freedom Park last year. Leesburg plans a similar ceremony this year. (By Rafael Crisostomo For The Washington Post)
By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 31, 2006

Northern Virginia's local governments will mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with low-key commem-orations stressing the view that less is more.

"We're making it very simple," Brian Hannigan, spokesman for the City of Alexandria, said, describing the moment of silence, choir music and brief comments by city officials planned for Market Square in front of City Hall. "It's weighty enough as it is."

The American Airlines plane that terrorists crashed into the Pentagon that day killed 184 people on the aircraft and in the building. Firefighters, police and rescue workers from the region rushed to the scene. One by one, local governments from Arlington to Prince William County built memorials. In the interim, most observed the solemn anniversary with some sort of ceremony, even if it was a moment of silence outside a government building.

Year Five marks a milestone for many. Yet local officials say they are wary of blowing the anniversary out of proportion, given that there will be many more.

Arlington, home of the Pentagon, plans to continue its tradition of a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m. -- the time the plane crashed -- followed by the tolling of a bell 184 times, once for each victim, at the county's Justice Center. A series of films, lectures, oral history projects and girls' fast-pitch softball tournaments featuring the best teams from Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York -- sites of the incidents -- will follow in September and October.

The county expanded its Web site to include these offerings in more detail, spokeswoman Diana Sun said. "The thought being there might be more people this year who might want to take a moment" to contemplate the attacks, she said. Master Chorale of Washington will present a commemorative concert on Sept. 14 called "Remember and Honor: Five Years After September 11" at Kenmore Middle School.

Prince William, which lost 22 residents on Sept. 11, will have its first official ceremony at a memorial that officials unveiled in May after a four-year struggle to raise money.

Local victims' names are inscribed on the side of a reflecting pool that serves as the centerpiece of the Liberty Memorial, on the property of the McCoart Administration Building in Woodbridge. The county plans a wreath-laying ceremony by candlelight at 8 p.m. Sept. 9. Victims' relatives who hope to attend requested the earlier day.

"They have many obligations that weekend," county spokeswoman Liz Bahrns said. "On the 11th, they might rather be at a cemetery."

The flagpole in the memorial's plaza has a poignant history. It stood in the front yard of a civilian electronics technician, James T. Lynch, who died at the Pentagon but whose remains have never been identified.

Fairfax County supervisors will have their annual ceremony under the grove of trees they planted behind the county Government Center in 2003. As spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald put it, the event also is a reminder of one of the legacies of Sept. 11: The constant need to reinvent the county's emergency preparedness skills in the event of another attack. Or a hurricane such as Katrina.

"When you talk about 9/11, there's the event itself and the fact that the world has changed since then," Fitzgerald said.

Loudoun County has never had a formal remembrance of Sept. 11, spokesman Jim Barnes said. "It really hasn't come up," he said.

But, on Sept. 11, Leesburg officials are extending hours at Freedom Park, a complex of ballfields where they built a stone wall with benches and dedicated a granite memorial in 2004. The city planted and dedicated three trees there last year, in honor of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

A formal ceremony will follow at the end of the day on the town green, when the honor guard will salute, bagpipes will be played and participants will observe a moment of silence. Then the Town Council will head into its regular meeting.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company