Beams of Light Honor Those Who Died at Pentagon

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2006 - People kept a respectful silence as 184 beams of white light emanated from the Pentagon's center courtyard this evening, rising into the night sky like lonely wraiths searching for lost loved ones.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England signaled for the lights to be turned on just before 9 p.m., as thousands of people who'd just completed the America Supports You Freedom Walk and family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks looked on.

Famed soprano vocalist Denyce Graves sang "God Bless America" as onlookers craned their necks upward. Some people stared stoically into the black sky, while others made little sounds and wiped at their eyes.

Tiffany R. Bush, 14, from Lorton, Va., was one of the people who had to look down and away from the lights and contend with her tears.

Bush lost her grandmother, Judith Jones, on Sept. 11, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon, killing 125 people in the building and 59 passengers aboard the plane. Jones was a Navy civilian employee.

Only moments before, Bush had been gazing at the beams, one for each person who died at the Pentagon. Then, her wet brown eyes leaked a shiny ribbon down her cheek.

"It's nice," Bush said of the light show. "It's inspiring to know there are people out there who still care."

Bush's mother, Michelle C. Burkes, 36, also of Lorton, accompanied her daughter to the Pentagon ceremony.

"It's a very nice tribute," Burkes said, watching the shifting lights above her as people about her began to head home.

"I got a bit of goose bumps when the lights came on," she said.

Each year the Defense Department has hosted an event at the Pentagon to commemorate the lives lost there on Sept. 11, 2001, Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, told American Forces Press Service in an earlier interview.

"And, so, this year on the fifth-year anniversary, we thought it would be meaningful to really do something to honor those 184 lives," Barber said.

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