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Bush: 'They died in tragedy... not in vain'

President Bush and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld watch a flag unfurl on the side of the restored Pentagon wall.
President Bush and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld watch a flag unfurl on the side of the restored Pentagon wall.  

By Christy Oglesby

(CNN) -- A solemn prelude of giant projected images of devastation, rescue and child-crafted tokens of condolences launched the ceremony held Wednesday along the west wall of the Pentagon in honor of those who died there a year ago.

With an invocation by an Army chaplain, the service titled "United in Freedom" began at 9:30 a.m. to remember the 184 people killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

President George Bush and his wife, Laura, were the last to take the podium, moments before the prayer.

Victims at the Pentagon 
Victims on AA Flight 77 
Project Phoenix: Rebuilding the Pentagon 

"We ask you to bless us as we gather in this sacred place as the reality of our pain and loss have become all too apparent.... We will not let those who died fade from our memory," said Chaplain Gaylord Gunhus.

At 9:37 a.m. the exact time that American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, ceremony attendants drew silent again to recognize the moment tragedy began unfolding along the complex's west wall.

Gen. Richard Myers, the U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman, remarked that until 2001, September 11 was an insignificant day to but a few who knew it as an important American battle date or the day construction began at the Pentagon in 1941. "We all wish September 11 had remained an obscure, historical date," Myers said.

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President Bush used his comments to remind America that the war on terror will, and must continue. Speaking of the victims, Bush said, "Though they died in tragedy, they did not die in vain. Their loss has moved a nation to action.... What happened to our nation on a September day set in motion the first great struggle in a new century."

The program's songs included "Last Full Measure of Devotion," "A Hero for Today" and "United Through It All."

The lyrics of the last song were written by a man who stood atop the observation deck at the World Trade Center two days before terrorists brought it down. A soloist penned the words he penned: "We'll stand against all enemies. Liberty has no walls. We are stronger than those towers. This country will not fall. We are Americans! United through it all."

A benediction and Air Force flyover concluded the service.

Crews completed rebuilding 2 million square feet of damaged office space at the Pentagon a month ahead of schedule. Dubbed Project Phoenix, the reconstruction cost close to $700 million and included new safety features in the rebuilt area.

A second ceremony Wednesday afternoon will honor those who took part in the reconstruction.

Several commemorative ceremonies took place at the Pentagon in the months following September 11.

During a June 11 memorial marking the last stone's placement in the completed facade, a Defense Department official placed a time capsule containing memorabilia in a wall to honor the victims.

The box included a program from an October 11 service at the site and the names of the people who died.

The victims included 64 airline passengers and 125 people at the Pentagon -- 22 soldiers, 47 Army civilian employees, six Army contractors, 33 sailors, six Navy civilian employees, three Navy contractors and eight other Defense Department employees.

Five families never received remains. One had a relative on the plane; four had kin who worked at the Pentagon.

Officials plan to erect a permanent memorial outside the building that will be accessible to the public and near the crash site.




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