Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made an unscheduled visit to the Pentagon Memorial for the 9/11 attack, on Wednesday, shortly after being sworn in on the job, where said he reflected on that "jarring gong" still reverberating around the world.
Hagel walked just outside of the building among the stone benches dedicated to each victim. He was joined by Michael L. Rhodes, pictured above left, director of administration and management at the Pentagon; Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, senior military advisor to the secretary, and Marcel J. Lettre, Hagel’s transition team director and now acting chief of staff.
Hagel also signed the guestbook at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Chapel, where he gazed at the stained glass artwork.
“Tribute to faith and freedom,” he wrote in the comments section of thick binder, which rests near the chapel entrance under a large black ribbon. In the book under “Faith Background,” Hagel wrote, “Christian.” For hometown, he wrote, “Nebraska.”
Artifacts from the 9/11 attack are displayed throughout the building, including remembrance quilts and children’s artwork from the time dedicated to the victims.
Hagel said, he “reflected a bit on what happened on that day in 2001. I was on Capitol Hill at the time. Everybody in this room remembers where you were at 9:37 in the morning on September 11, 2001. And I surely remember exactly where I was.”
“That was a ‘jarring gong,’ that event,” Hagel said, invoking Winston Churchill during his first public remarks as secretary, in the Pentagon, “that set in motion dynamics that we are living with today.”
Hagel said that 9/11 and the 1991 Gulf War started a new era of global threats that continue to frame national security threats to the U.S. Hagel said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey noted to him in their first morning meeting that Thursday, Feb. 28, was the 22nd anniversary of the end of the Gulf War.
Charting those two events, he said, “You start to see a picture emerge of different kinds of threats, new threats, and there’ll be more new threats. … It gives us some dimension of what’s going on the world.”