Survivors of Terrorist Attack Find Consolation in March to Pentagon
Monday, September 8, 2008
Each year for the past four, Aline Tyler registered to participate in the annual America Supports You Freedom Walk to commemorate the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor the country's veterans.
But when the day came, the 50-year-old Army secretary couldn't bear to lace up her sneakers and go.
Tyler is a survivor of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, and the memories of what happened after the plane hit -- the screams, the flames, the smoke -- were too raw.
"I was always scared about what I might do," she said. "I was afraid I would come here and start crying."
This year, something changed. Tyler, of Takoma Park, still works at the Pentagon, and when she strolls through its long corridors, she sometimes finds herself in tears. But yesterday, as she stood in a crowd of 10,000 under sunshine and blue skies, she felt something different. Instead of sorrow, she felt peace.
"You've got to be grateful for life," she said, surrounded by a group from work. "It gives me a good feeling, being here."
Tyler was among the Pentagon survivors taking part in the mile-long march from the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to the Pentagon crash site. The event, sponsored by the Department of Defense, is one of several to mark this year's anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
On Thursday, the nation will mark the opening of the country's first major Sept.11 memorial with an evening ceremony at the Pentagon, where 184 people died, not including the five men who hijacked American Airlines Flight 77.
"Everyone here is a distinguished person today," Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense, said before yesterday's walk.
Participants included teenagers, college students and current and former military personnel and their families. There were babies dressed in red, white and blue hats and onesies, and burly men wearing leather vests and sporting bandannas in patriotic colors.
The day's events included a moment of silence for the Sept. 11 victims and a performance by the Oak Ridge Boys. The walk was the largest of about 300 taking place across the country, organizers said.
It was the second time that the Allen Family from Waldorf took part.