WASHINGTON – Quiet and respectful, scores of people on Saturday walked past the impact point where a hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 (search), as the military allowed one-day tours for the general public.
"We are living that part of history," said Ailyn Alonso, 54, of Bethesda, Md. "We learn from the past."
She was among about 20 people who walked from a Pentagon parking lot to the southwest portion of the Defense Department (search) headquarters where the rebuilt wall included a stone scorched by the crash.
Inscribed with the date of the attack, the blackened stone shows the point of the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 (search), which killed 184 people, 125 in the Pentagon.
The Defense Department has permitted tours of the site only for families of victims and for groups with reservations. The Saturday tours for the general public were a one-day event offered to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the terrorist strikes.
Small groups of people also passed through a Pentagon room dedicated to the victims, whose names were inscribed on black panels and whose personal stories were contained in books. Visitors then entered a memorial chapel, a simple room with stained-glass windows built during the restoration of the building.
"When you see something with the names it's more personal," said Jean Davidson, 56, of Atlanta, Texas. "Very moving, very sad."
Tours moved past the 2-acre site set aside for an $18 million contemplation park. Organizers have raised about half the construction cost and plan to break ground in fall 2006.
James Laychak, president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund (search), said Saturday he expects to have raised $9 million by the end of the month. He said he is confident the organization will succeed in its fundraising, which is focusing on large corporate gifts but welcomes smaller donations from individuals.
"The message is, you can be part of something that is going to be a very historic memorial," Laychak said.