Pentagon to Host Public Tours Sept. 9

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sep. 5, 2006 - For four hours on Sept. 9, Pentagon tours will return to a pre-Sept. 11, 2001, "normal."

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, people could walk up to the Pentagon tour window with no appointment, line up and wait for the next tour to start, Dave Evans, the Pentagon's director of community relations, explained. Security issues after the terrorist attacks meant the end to that practice, he said.

But as the fifth anniversary of the attacks approaches, Pentagon officials will briefly reprise the pre-Sept. 11 tour program, conducting tours for the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with no advance registration.

Pentagon tour guides will greet guests near the Memorial Gate, in the Pentagon's south parking lot, and escort them to the site where American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the building, Evans said.

"There's a stone that's placed in the wall over a time capsule," he said. "They'll walk up there, talk about that and then come in the Corridor 4 entrance."

Just inside that entrance is the America's Heroes Memorial, and visitors also will be given a few minutes to see the chapel next to the memorial, Evans said.

"(Then) they'll turn around and come back out the door," he said. "When they come back out again, instead of talking about the same thing, what they'll do is swing out just a little more and point out where the new (Pentagon) memorial is going to be placed."

The site is under construction; therefore, visitors won't be able to get too close during the brief tour, Evans said.

He added that parking restrictions remain in effect throughout the time tours are being offered. Those wishing to take the tour and who have a Pentagon parking pass may park in their designated areas. All others are encouraged to use the Metro subway system and exit at the Pentagon stop.

"We'll have signs posted pointing the way to the Pentagon tours," Evans said. "We'll also have tour guides scattered along the walkway to make sure people are moving in the right direction."

The public tours, held in 2005 during the Sept. 11 weekend as well, are part of events commemorating the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States. The weekend's highlight is the America Supports You Freedom Walk on Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m. The walk starts near the Washington Monument and ends at the Pentagon.
More than 120 similar walks in all 50 states are scheduled to remember those who lost their lives Sept. 11 and to honor America's military veterans, past and present. The local events around the country parallel the Washington, D.C., Freedom Walk, which is sponsored by the Defense Department's America Supports You program. America Supports You spotlights ways the American people and the nation's corporate sector support U.S. servicemembers.

People who can't make it to the Pentagon for the Sept. 9 public tours can make a request for a group tour, Evans said. Currently, requests are accepted from civic, church, youth or school groups. Tours for Pentagon employees' friends or family members also can be arranged.

Public tours, which had ceased altogether after the attacks, were again offered to groups with advance reservations in February 2002. In 2004, more than 60,000 visitors toured the Pentagon, he said. That number jumped to about 76,000 in 2005.

"This year, we went past that number back in June or July," Evans said. "If we do it right, ... we're going to have close to 120,000 people moving through the building this year, which would put us at the level of pre-9/11.

"That is absolutely, without a doubt, thanks to all of the tour guides and their supervisors," he added.

For more information on the Pentagon and tour procedures, visit the Pentagon's Web site.

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