Thursday was Gail Fahy’s birthday. But she didn’t celebrate it and hasn’t on Sept. 11 since one of the hijacked jetliners slammed into the Pentagon seven years ago, killing her best friend and co-worker at Palo Verde High School, Barbara Edwards.
"This is Barbara’s day," Fahy explained minutes after a member of Palo Verde’s Air Force Jr. ROTC honor guard folded a U.S. flag that had flown over Edwards’ memorial at the south end of the soccer field and handed it to her. The flag will be presented to a foreign language scholarship recipient in Edwards’ honor.
"I speak about her in the present tense because she’s still a part of me. She was my best friend," said Fahy, head of the school’s Foreign Language Department.
An image of Edwards’ smiling face graced a 3-inch-diameter button on Fahy’s dress while she talked about her friend, their profession and the plans they had that day.
Edwards, 58, a mother of three with an arm in a cast, was on medical leave from the first weeks of school. She had been in a vehicle accident in June 2001 with Fahy and a math teacher and was visiting family friends back East while recovering from her injuries.
The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Edwards boarded American Airlines Flight 77 near Washington, D.C., expecting to land in Los Angeles. Once there, she had planned to drive home to Las Vegas in time for Fahy’s birthday.
"She never made it," Fahy said. "I hope people realize, we will never forget and we shall never forget."
Edwards’ memorial was one of several events held locally to remember those who died in the terror attacks.
Under mild evening temperatures, about 200 people gathered at the Clark County Government Center’s amphitheater to hear local law enforcement and rescue officials honor America’s fallen heroes and the military. Speakers reflected on how the nation has gained strength and resolve since Sept. 11, 2001.
"We are a nation that is healing and moving forward together," Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie told the crowd.
Chad Philip, 18, was a sixth-grader in New Jersey when the planes hit the towers in New York City. Philip, now a student at the College of Southern Nevada, recalled how he started shaking and crying when he repeatedly saw the televised images of the World Trade Center towers coming down.
But seven years later, he said he is confident a terrorist attack of that magnitude will not happen again on U.S. soil.
"I do believe our government is watching things more closely and possibly preventing attacks that we don’t even know about."
Tears streamed down Patrick Kung’s face during most of the hourlong event. Kung, 38, lost a family friend, a New York City police officer who was in an elevator shaft in one of the towers when it collapsed.
"I know it’s been seven years, but it feels like it’s just the other day," he said, holding back tears.
Kung said he is discouraged this election year because it seems like the presidential campaigns are dividing the country along party lines.
"This brings us together, but something like a campaign separates us so quickly," Kung said.
Under overcast skies at the Pentagon on Thursday, hundreds of visitors walked among the newly dedicated memorials to the 184 people who perished in the crash of Flight 77.
Edwards was remembered in one of the wing-like "light benches," the signature features of the new park, which is in the shadow of the building’s western facade where the jetliner hit.
The name of Lt. Col. Karen J. Wagner, a 1984 graduate of the ROTC program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, also was engraved on a bench.
Wagner, 40, was killed inside the Pentagon. On Thursday, a white rose floated in the basin of water under her bench as onlookers paid respects.
Underwater lights in each of the basins reflected up into the stainless steel of each bench, slowly illuminating the entire park as the sun went down.
Wagner’s name was carved into the end of the bench facing the Pentagon, signifying she died in the building.
On Edwards’ bench, her name was engraved in the end facing the other direction, signifying that she was on the ill-fated plane.
Stephens Washington Bureau chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report. Contact reporter Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702 383-0308. Contact reporter Antonio Planas at email@example.com or 702 383-4638.Slideshow