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Prince William County has received a dozen ideas to add to its 9/11 memorial

Sept. 11 is a date not soon forgotten, just like Dec. 7 is for people who lived at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Thoughts turn to the lives lost in on that September morning in 2001, which was a Tuesday just as the 11th is this year.

Prince William County lost 22 residents in the attacks—19 when one of the planes hijacked by terrorists hit the Pentagon in Arlington, and three when two planes hit the World Trade Center in New York.

The county has a memorial—the Liberty Memorial at Freedom Park—outside the county office center at 1 County Complex Court, off Prince William Parkway. Two plumes of water representing the two New York towers shoot up from a five-sided fountain shaped like the Pentagon. The names of the Prince William people killed are etched on one side of the memorial.

Stone from Pennsylvania, the state where one hijacked plane crashed after passengers made an effort to stop their hijackers, is used in the memorial and a block from the destroyed part of the Pentagon is placed prominently for visitors to see.

The county has solicited entries in a design competition to add to the memorial using four steel beams acquired from the destroyed World Trade Center.

The board of supervisors will be making a selection from one of a dozen submissions. They came from around the country and represent submissions from both design companies and individuals, according to Tracy Gordon, assistant to the county administrator. She said there isn’t a date for when the supervisors will decide the winning entry and that there is “nothing in the budget” at this time to pay for the project. There could be a mix of public and private funding involved, she said.

Kevin McNulty, aide to County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, said the county will be looking at private funding and that a decision on the design won’t be made until next year.

The county held a memorial observance at Liberty Memorial at 1:30 p.m. this Sept. 11. The names of the Prince William County residents killed in the terrorist attacks were to be read, flowers were to be placed at the fountain, and Stewart was to speak.

His speech was to include these statements: “9/11 was a day that forever changed life as we know it here in Prince William County and America. Prince William County lost twenty-two residents on that day, nineteen individuals who were who were serving at the Pentagon and three in the towers of the World Trade Center.

It’s been 11 years since those cowardly terrorists struck at the very core of America. Yet what they failed to realize, nor could ever comprehend, is that America does not cower in challenging times. We will never forget September 11th and the ceremony each year held at Prince William County’s Freedom Park helps us to honor the men and women who were killed, the men and women who died trying to save others, and the men and women since who have led us out of that dark time into a new era of strength among the American people.”“

Bull Run photo
The names of the Prince William County residents who perished 11 years ago are inscribed on the Prince William County memorial

The attacks that day changed how we live our lives. Perhaps we’re all a little more on guard when it comes to observing suspicious behavior. Security was stepped up, particularly at airports since the hijackers were able to board planes with weapons.”

Procedures changed at airports large and small. Pre-Sept. 11, officials at Manassas Regional Airport were concerned “mostly about petty theft and pilfering of radios and avionics,” Airport Director Juan Rivera said.“Kids would steal globes off lights. That was more of the mindset.” Theft of aircraft at airports was rare and when it happened, particularly along the nation’s southern border, it was usually tied to drug smuggling, he said.

The Manassas Airport handles general aviation aircraft and though it doesn’t serve the jumbo jets that fly into Dulles or Reagan airports, it has changed its security measures in light of the terrorist attacks.

“I was here then (Sept. 11, 2001) and the difference is night and day,” he said. About a half-million dollars has gone into improved security at the airport, including perimeter fenncing, card readers and security cameras to supplement the guard on duty.

The airport has a security committee that meets quarerly, Rivera said. Sometimes the meetings include talks by a representative of the federal Transportation Security Administration or local police.

“One of the biggest things is to keep awareness up,” Rivera said. Regular users of the airport are the eyes and ears supplementing the airport’s security procedures.“That gives us more bang for the buck,” he said.

The efforts of firefighters and police who responded to the tragedies at the Pentagon and World Trade Center will never be forgotten. Kevin Wilson, chief of the Stonewall Jackson Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad in Manassas, recalled, “I was still relatively new to the fire service in 2001 and I remember thinking to myself how overwhelmed I would have been if I was one of the responders that day. Since then I have spent a lot of time learning both about what conditions the responders faced as well as about a number of the responders lives and what they left behind.”

Wilson went on to say, “We owe it to those that lost their lives that day to learn from the events and make ourselves better as responders and even more importantly better as people. So many lives were cut short that day and we can honor them and their families by celebrating their lives and carrying forward the professions they loved.”

Lt. Col. Barry Barnard of the Prince William County Police Department said, “September 11 will forever be a part of our history. It is a day we pause each year to honor the victim’s and their families. It is a day of reflection. It is a reminder of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and that we can never take those freedoms for granted. It is a day of remembrance of the sacrifices made by so many.

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