WASHINGTON — Thousands of people gathered on the eve of the five-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks to walk from the National Mall to the Pentagon, where streaks of light were projected into the night sky to honor the victims.
Sunday's Freedom Walk, sponsored by the Defense Department, was one of more than 120 walks organized in cities in all 50 states to remember the day that hijackers used commercial airliners as weapons, killing nearly 3,000 people in the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history.
The walk was just one of dozens of remembrances planned nationwide for Sunday and Monday. In New York, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush attended a memorial service at St. Paul's Chapel, the church at the edge of ground zero that served as a sanctuary for weary emergency workers.
In Washington, the walk was led by students and faculty at three District of Columbia elementary schools who lost classmates and teachers on Sept. 11, 2001. The six were on their way to a field trip when American Airlines Flight 77, traveling from Washington Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles, smashed into the side of the Pentagon, killing 184 people.
‘An emotional time’
"It's an emotional time, but it's also a good time because when you remember people you can keep them alive in your hearts," said Joyce Grimes, the principal of Ketcham Elementary School, which lost 11-year-old sixth grader Rodney Dickens and his 58-year-old teacher James Debeuneure.
About 400 family members of the victims, including those working at the Pentagon, also participated in the walk.
"It's a day that people can come together and just be as one and say, 'OK, let's grieve, but let's also rejoice that these people gave their lives for us,'" said Dani Lamana, whose brother Scott, a 31-year-old Navy lieutenant, died at the Pentagon on Sept. 11. Lamana traveled to Washington from Baton Rouge, La., with her mother, sister and sister-in-law. To honor Scott, all four women attached buttons to their shirts with his photograph.
184 beams of light
The Freedom Walk's path began on the Mall and ended at the Pentagon crash site. As a tribute, 184 beams of light were illuminated in the building's courtyard to honor each person who perished when the jetliner struck. They will stay lit until Monday night.
Elsewhere in the country, a Mass in Connecticut was held to thank emergency workers. In Pennsylvania, a tailgate party and Beach Boys concert dubbed "Operation Salute" was held in honor of National Guard troops to say thank you for their service since the attacks.
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