The Pentagon’s quiet take on 9/11

The Pentagon’s 9/11 experience, it seems, will always live in the shadows of the Twin Towers. So it’s perhaps appropriate that the Pentagon’s 9/11 ceremonies, too, have slowly become less of a public spectacle than their New York and Pennsylvania counterparts. The events are an especially stark contrast to New York City, which draws thousands ...

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

The Pentagon's 9/11 experience, it seems, will always live in the shadows of the Twin Towers. So it's perhaps appropriate that the Pentagon's 9/11 ceremonies, too, have slowly become less of a public spectacle than their New York and Pennsylvania counterparts.

The events are an especially stark contrast to New York City, which draws thousands of spectators and live television coverage as the names of the 2,983 victims there are read off one-by-one.

On Tuesday, the 9/11 memorial grounds where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the E-Ring facing Arlington National Cemetery will be closed to the public from 5 a.m. until noon. There, a private ceremony just for families of the victims will be held with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.  

The Pentagon’s 9/11 experience, it seems, will always live in the shadows of the Twin Towers. So it’s perhaps appropriate that the Pentagon’s 9/11 ceremonies, too, have slowly become less of a public spectacle than their New York and Pennsylvania counterparts.

The events are an especially stark contrast to New York City, which draws thousands of spectators and live television coverage as the names of the 2,983 victims there are read off one-by-one.

On Tuesday, the 9/11 memorial grounds where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the E-Ring facing Arlington National Cemetery will be closed to the public from 5 a.m. until noon. There, a private ceremony just for families of the victims will be held with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.  

After a small White House remembrance, President and Mrs. Obama are scheduled to visit the Pentagon memorial also, before visiting wounded troops at Walter Reed National Medical Center. But the event is pooled press, preventing a mass of cameras.

For the "Pentagon community" of easily 25,000 people in the building, many who were there in 2001, Panetta later will say a few remarks at 2pm in the Pentagon courtyard. Last year, just a few hundred gathered quietly outside or watched from the five floors of window encircling the green. Tens of thousands more carried on about the business of the Defense Department, as if it were any other day. This year, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James Winnefeld and Director of Administration and Management Michael L. Rhodes will attend.

There’s never been much flash to the stoic Pentagon — really just a glorified office building far from Washington’s grand monuments, where civilians and military officers do their jobs and head for home. But perhaps last year’s 10-year anniversary even turned a page even in New York City. This year, no politicians are being allowed to speak at Ground Zero. This year, only the families’ voices will be heard.

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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