Paul Zerkow had taken the morning off on Sept. 11, 2001. He was on his way in to work at the Pentagon when he heard the news about the terrorist attacks.
“It was just by the luck of God that I was not in the Pentagon that day. I was driving into the Pentagon when I heard the announcement, so I rushed over, set up outside and tried to help the people there,” said Zerkow, a retired U.S. Army major.
Zerkow worked with U.S. Army Sergeant Major Larry L. Strickland and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert J. Hymel, two Prince William County residents who died that day and who were remembered as part of the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony held at the county’s Liberty Memorial.
Zerkow said he was glad to attend a ceremony honoring the fallen. “Having the ceremony is an appropriate remembrance of all those people who gave their lives in honor, not only in support of their country, but in support of the folks that worked in the Pentagon. It was a tragic day for everybody all around.”
Janet Pendergraph also worked at the Pentagon on 9/11 and said she often thinks of that blue-skied, September day, especially on the anniversaries. “I think it’s important to remember those who perished. It was just a rather ordinary day. I thought about that last night. I’m lucky that I had 16 years that some of the people didn’t.”
The ceremony included the tolling of a fire bell by the Department of Fire and Rescue to honor the passing of all those who died on 9/11. When a firefighter died in the line of duty, the Fire Alarm Office, the forerunner of today’s 9-1-1 call centers, would “tap out” a special signal – “Five-Five-Five” – five even dashes and then a pause, five even dashes and then a pause, and then five more dashes. The practice became known as the Tolling of the Bell.
BOCS Chairman Corey Stewart read the names of the 22 community members that died that day, and the ceremony ended as the crowd surrounding the memorial stood and listened as a bugler played “Taps.”
Jerry Schwehm, who was visiting from New Orleans, said he was moved by the ceremony. “It was so good. Everyone can relate to this.”
The names of the fallen community members, whose names are inscribed on the Liberty Memorial fountain, include:
- Sergeant First Class John J. Chada, U.S. Army, Retired
- Petty Officer Third Class Jamie L. Fallon, U.S. Navy
- Amelia V. Fields
- Lt. Col. Robert J. Hymel, U.S. Air Force, Retired
- Sergeant Major Lacey B. Ivory, U.S. Army
- Judith L. Jones
- David W. Laychak
- James T. Lynch, Jr.
- Gene E. Maloy
- Robert J. Maxwell
- Molly L. McKenzie
- Craig J. Miller
- Diana B. Padro
- Rhonda S. Rasmussen
- Edward V. Rowenhorst
- Judy Rowlett
- Donald D. Simmons
- Jeff L. Simpson
- Cheryle D. Sincock
- Chief Information Systems Technician Gregg H. Smallwood, U.S. Navy
- Sergeant Major Larry L. Strickland, U.S. Army
- Sandra L. White
To watch the ceremony in its entirety, visit the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/princewilliamcounty.
More information about the Liberty Memorial and World Trade Center Sculpture can be found at www.pwcgov.org/memorials.