Agencies take low-key approach to Sept. 11 anniversary
Most federal agencies will take only a brief respite from their work on Wednesday to honor the victims of last year's terrorist attacks.
Government Executive asked more than a dozen agencies how they planned to mark the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Many agencies will hold short ceremonies and participate in a moment of silence to honor victims, but for most employees, it will be a regular work day. All federal offices in the Washington area will be open for business on Sept. 11.
"We have to go on with our work, of course, to make sure nothing like this happens again," said an FBI spokesman of the agency's plans for the day.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employees union, also plans to plow ahead with its work on that day. "We don't have anything planned [for Sept. 11] at the moment," said Diane Witiak, a spokeswoman for AFGE. "We have our hands full with the homeland security bill, and that's where our efforts have been [in the last weeks]."
The Census Bureau, which lost two of its employees on Sept. 11, will have a short service honoring its fallen co-workers, but does not want to dwell on the tragedy. Marion Britton and Waleska Martinez of the agency's New York office were aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when terrorists crashed it into a Pennsylvania field.
"One thing we are trying to do is not have another memorial service," said LaVerne Collins, assistant director for communications at the bureau, emphasizing that the purpose of the ceremony is not to dredge up painful memories. "We are trying to have an encouraging service that will give people reason to go on."
The agency created a "Tree of Honor" in memory of Britton and Martinez with 300 leaves, two of which are inscribed with the women's names. The other leaves are designated for the names of future employees who make outstanding contributions to the Census Bureau's mission.
Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, will attend a ceremony in New York to honor IRS employee David Bernard, who died from injuries sustained at the World Trade Center last Sept. 11. The union, which represents 97,000 IRS employees, could not confirm whether it would be holding any ceremonies of its own, according to NTEU spokespeople.
Federal employees in the New York area are planning a ceremony Wednesday morning that will feature buglers, a joint color guard, bagpipe players, inspirational readings and a Native American healer, according to Cynthia Gable, executive director of the New York City Federal Executive Board.
"This is by federal employees for federal employees," Gable said. "We sent out ribbons to every agency that requested them, so employees could write their names on them, and then collected them, put them into bows and made them into wreaths to be carried by employees from agencies who lost employees." Flags from the 70 countries that lost people at the World Trade Center will also be displayed at the ceremony.
"We wanted to do a ceremony that was based on reflecting on what happened, and also one of moving on and picking up our lives," said Tony Farthing, New York Region director for the Census Bureau.
The Pentagon, which lost 125 employees when terrorists crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the building, will hold a ceremony on Sept. 11 with President Bush to honor victims. The event is open only to Pentagon employees and their families.
Tanya N. Ballard contributed to this report.