Rebecca Carroll: The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — To Carol Anne Giza, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, violated everyone in America.
“We all felt their pain and still feel their pain,” said Giza, 67, of Lancaster, N.Y., who was among 1,500 people to participate Saturday in the first walk-in tours of the site where a hijacked airliner hit the Pentagon.
“When you come back to something like this, it does revive all of those feelings you had, and I guess that’s good because we really should never forget,” Giza said.
The one-day event at the Pentagon commemorated the fourth anniversary of the terrorist strikes, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Defense Department headquarters, killing 184 people. Officials had permitted tours of the site only for families of victims and for groups with reservations.
In clusters of about 20, visitors walked from a Pentagon parking lot to the southwest portion of the building where the rebuilt wall included a stone scorched by the crash and inscribed with the date “September 11, 2001.”
The tour groups also passed through a Pentagon room dedicated to the victims, whose names were inscribed on black panels and whose personal stories were contained in books.
“When you see something with the names — it’s more personal,” said Jean Davidson, 56, of Atlanta, Texas. “Very moving, very sad.”
On one side of the room was an encased Purple Heart, a medal for wounded military. On the other side of the room hung a Defense of Freedom medal, the civilian equivalent of the Purple Heart.
Visitors also saw a memorial chapel, a simple room with stained-glass windows inscribed with the words “I will support and defend” and “so help me God” — quoted from the oath taken upon enlistment into the military.
Tours moved past the 2-acre outdoor site set aside for an $18 million contemplation park. Organizers have raised about half the construction cost and plan to break ground in fall 2006.
James Laychak, president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, said Saturday he expects to have raised $9 million by the end of the month. He said he is confident the organization will succeed in its fundraising, which is focusing on large corporate gifts but welcomes smaller donations from individuals.
“The message is, you can be part of something that is going to be a very historic memorial,” Laychak said.