This article was updated at 10 a.m. Sept. 12, 2021, to correct how sunlight is directed via the structure over the plaque in the park.
The sun shone brightly over Courthouse Square Park in Rockville Friday morning, much like the weather nearly 20 years ago in the greater Washington, D.C., region, on Sept. 11, 2001.
Chief Administrative Officer Rich Madaleno and County Executive Marc Elrich, addressing a crowd of more than 100, brought up this similarity during a ceremony honoring the 11 Montgomery County residents who died at the Pentagon on 9/11.
Elected officials, police officers, fire and rescue officials, and others filled the park, which contains benches for the 11 victims.
Elrich said he remembers 9/11 more vividly than most in the last 20 years. He was teaching at Rolling Terrace Elementary School when he was called into the school’s library to watch the news on TV.
“The question I had is, ‘How are we going to explain this to our children?’” Elrich told those gathered.
“We owe it to [the 11 victims] to ponder as a society how we can never let this happen again … not just in this nation, but everywhere in the world,” the county executive added.
County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said he was working at Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., when he saw smoke billowing from the Pentagon.
It was a scary day, Albornoz said. But he will never forget the courage of first responders and everyone who rushed to help.
He also will never forget the 11 lives lost, and the way the country was unified in the immediate days, weeks and months after the attacks.
“That sense of unity, that sense of purpose, was so powerful and lasted for weeks,” Albornoz said.
Friday’s event featured several examples of pomp and circumstance. The county’s Fire and Rescue Service, the police department and Maryland-National Capital Park Police presented the colors.
Jeanne Lubika, a senior at Clarksburg High School, sang the national anthem. The Montgomery County Fire Fighters Pipe and Drums provided music before and during the remembrance.
What was unique to the event in Rockville, however, was the 11 benches, and a bronze plaque and metal structure in one corner of Courthouse Square Park.
Madaleno said that at some point Saturday, if it is sunny, a solar lens atop the structure will divert light to the 11 names on the plaque, briefly illuminating the names of the 11 lives lost.
Near the end of Friday’s ceremony, officials read selected passages from each of the 11 families describing those lost, before a moment of silence. Those ranged from song lyrics to parts of poems and quotes from various historical figures.
They then took a flower and placed it on that victim’s bench.
Elrich, Albornoz and Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton then placed three flowers at the base of the bronze plaque.
Near the beginning of the ceremony, Bishop Paul L. Walker of the Healing and Deliverance Ministry told those gathered to not only honor those 11 names and the other lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, but also to value liberty, freedom and justice.
“Remember, there’s always a time you can smile and remember what they meant to you,” Walker said.
The 11 county residents who died at the Pentagon are:
- William Edward Caswell, 54 of Silver Spring. He hailed from Boston and was a physicist and former University of Maryland faculty member who worked as a civilian for the Navy.
- Dr. Gerald Paul Fisher, 57, of Potomac. He was born in New York City and grew up in Los Angeles. He was at the Pentagon for a briefing with the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, concerning a system for survivor benefits for military employees.
- Capt. Lawrence D. Getzfred, 57, originally from Elgin, Neb. He climbed the ranks in the U.S. Navy, beginning in 1963. He worked in the Pentagon on the staff of the deputy director of plans, policy, and operations.
- Michele M. Heidenberger, 52, of Chevy Chase. She was a flight attendant for American Airlines for nearly 30 years and on Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. Besides St. Ann’s Infant and Maternity Home, she also worked with the American Red Cross, Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart, Mater Dei, and Gonzaga College High School.
- Angela Marie Houtz, 27, originally from La Plata. She worked in the Pentagon for the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot, and also served as Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot before his last role as a senior analyst.
- Teddington Hamm Moy, 48, originally from Washington, D.C. He was a program manager in information management support for the Army, working at the Pentagon.
- Lt. Darin H. Pontell, 26, of Gaithersburg. He was originally from Columbia, and worked in naval intelligence throughout his career. Pontell was finishing a 12-hour shift at the Pentagon when a plane struck the building.
- Scott A. Powell, 35, of Silver Spring. He was a software engineer and was working as a civilian contractor for BTG Inc. at the time of the attack.
- Todd Hayes Reuben, 40, of Potomac, was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77. He was a corporate partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Venable, Baetjer, and Howard. He specialized in tax and business transactions.
- Patricia J. Statz, 41, of Takoma Park. She was originally from Chippewa Falls, Wisc., and worked as an actress and director at U.S. Army theaters in Germany before moving to Maryland in 2000 and beginning work at the Pentagon.
- Ernest M. Willcher, 62, of North Potomac. He spent 40 years in the U.S. Army before retiring and serving on a consulting basis at the Pentagon as an associate of Booz, Allen, & Hamilton. Along with Fisher, he was briefing the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel on a system for survivor benefits for military employees.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org