'Out of the Smoke and Fire'

Arlington commemorates the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Dominique Lopez-Piper was in second grade at Oakridge Elementary School when the plane crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. 

"I remember they turned the TVs on so we could see what was going on," Lopez-Piper said of that day. "Then they announced that our parents were coming to pick us up. My mom was the first parent to get there."

The school is less than three miles from the Pentagon, and Lopez-Piper said they saw the windows shake and felt the floor vibrate with the impact.

Saturday evening, now 16 and a junior in high school, Lopez-Piper sang the national anthem solo at Arlington's commemoration of the 10-year anniversary of the terror attacks.

"I feel really honored to be here and to get to sing," Lopez-Piper said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to honor those people who died and their families."

She and her classmates from Wakefield High School's Madrigals choir performed for a crowd of gathered Arlingtonians, public officials, police and firefighters, and members of the military at the U.S. Air Force Memorial.

"This is a generation of high school kids who only have very vague recollections of that day," said Wakefield Choral Director Nadim Nader. "Events like this put a focus on 9/11 for them. And, if you remember, there were musical tributes across the country almost immediately after 9/11. So as musicians, this is a chance for them to serve the public."

Sean Kinnard, who lives close to the Pentagon, brought his two daughters, both born in a post-9/11 world, for the music.

"They don't understand what it's all about," Kinnard said. "But it's a good chance for them to get to listen to some music. And it's a nice night."

The Washington skyline and a rising moon formed a picturesque background for the music and the remarks of Jim Laychak, president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund. Laychak's younger brother, Dave, was in the Pentagon on 9/11.

He died in the attack.

The Pentagon was just visible across Washington Boulevard through the trees Saturday night.

When the dust had settled in 2001, Laychak, a longtime resident of Northern Virginia, started thinking about how people would remember the attacks on the Pentagon.

"I thought, what if people five years from now are driving down Washington Boulevard and can't remember which side of the Pentagon was hit?" Laychak said in his remarks.

Laychak quickly got involved in the project to build a memorial. He helped raise the $25 million needed to build and maintain the project. 

"People ask me how I feel about this," Laychak said. "Are you sad or mad? Do you miss your brother? What would he think of all this? How do you feel about the memorial? Look what great things we've made from this tragedy. Out of the smoke and fire we've built something for solace, peace and remembrance."

Betty Carter of the Macedonia Baptist Church music ministry sang "America the Beautiful" as 184 people in the crowd lifted candles, one for each of those who died in the attack on the Pentagon 10 years ago.

"I really love my country," Carter said. "I really love my freedom. We've taken for granted our freedom, but not everyone has it. It's something to be proud of."

Remembering Sept. 11, Carter said, reminds us of that.


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