Thursday, September 12

Washington Report - Slate's David Plotz comments on the "strangely festive" commemoration of 9/11 at the Pentagon. I spent yesterday morning on a bike tour of eastern Arlington, beginning at the remembrance at Rosslyn's Freedom Park with a final stop off at the perimeter of the DoD ceremony. I can attest to the fact that the military "didn't welcome the public to today's ceremony: This was 'Pentagon family' only, with soldiers barring the uninvited." So I watched from afar as the bands played a medley of service anthems and fighter jets roared overhead. (Marking the one brief lull in the otherwise constant operation of Reagan National airport nearby.)

The Washington Post also remarked upon the contradictory messages delivered at the event, which were echoed in the somewhat more sombre flag-unfurling in Rosslyn. "Arlington Remembers" was one of many regional observances in which the public could take part. While more attention was given to loss and grief in Rosslyn, the most striking note was the prominence of Old Glory. Every tall building along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is displaying a giant star-spangled banner. To me, these symbols suggest that the Pentagon's host city shares the military establishment's sense of resolve to take care of business, to move forward with tasks at hand and not be sidetracked by despair and heartache.

I don't think Washington wanted the war on terror, but in a city usually mired in politics and bureaucracy, last September 11th gave people a new focus and energy. "Let's roll" really did mean something here. At the Pentagon, it yielded at least one tangible result in the rebirth of the building. It remains to be seen how long that spirit will last.