Federal and defense officials and victims' loved ones gathered at the Pentagon for Sunday's September 11th memorial ceremony, to celebrate the country's resilience. NY1's Washington reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.
The Pentagon, which 10 years ago was a site of horror, was a place of beauty Sunday, as family members of the victims killed during the military complex's terror attack gathered with dignitaries for a solemn, private ceremony.
"It is difficult to believe that 10 years ago this was the scene of incredible devastation," said US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
A moment of silence taken just minutes before 9:37 a.m., the time the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the west wall of the Pentagon 10 years ago.
Service members laid wreaths down, one by one, on each of the 184 benches of the Pentagon Memorial, representing each of the victims killed in 2001 attack.
"With the honor guard, it was really a very special ceremony," said Lisa Dowland, whose husband died in the attack.
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense and Vice President Joe Biden all shared remarks and words to comfort the family members of the victims.
"Hopes were tragically dashed. You come here, we all come here, to remember those hopes and to mourn," said Mullen.
While forced to beef up security surrounding the September 11th anniversary due to new terror threats, officials brazenly asserted the United States' resilience against threats old and new.
"Every time this nation has been attacked, you knew it only emboldens us to stand up and to strike back," said Biden.
Dowland hoped that sentiment is never forgotten.
"It's about remembering what happened on 9/11. Remembering all the loved ones that were lost and making sure that the children learn what happened on September 11th," said Dowland.
Officials estimated that about 1,300 families of Pentagon victims and guests of honor attended the ceremony, and many of them try to return to the crash site as often as they can.