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Pentagon offers one-day tour of 9/11 site

In N.Y., families of victims protest planned museum

WASHINGTON -- Scores of people walked yesterday past where a hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

''We are living that part of history," said Ailyn Alonso, 54, of Bethesda, Md., who was on a tour open to the general public. ''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 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 -- 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 tours for the general public were offered on only one day, 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.

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.

In New York, more than 500 relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks rallied at the World Trade Center site against a proposed museum they say will take attention away from Sept. 11 and dishonor those who died. They held up framed pictures of their loved ones and signs reading ''Preserve Sacred Ground."

Family members said the International Freedom Center should not be allowed to show exhibits about struggles for freedom around the world on the 16-acre site.

''These are important stories to tell," said Jack Lynch, whose son, firefighter Michael Lynch, was one of the 2,749 people who died at the trade center. ''Elsewhere, not at America's memorial."

A bouquet of white flowers and several red roses were tucked into the metal fence surrounding the site yesterday, while huge American flags hung outside nearby office buildings.

The family members rallying against the cultural space at the site say museums like the Freedom Center could include exhibits or programming that would dishonor the memory of the attacks.

The Freedom Center and another museum, the Drawing Center, were chosen more than a year ago to occupy cultural space at the site in a building close to the planned ''Reflecting Absence" memorial. But officials said last month that the Drawing Center would look elsewhere for a home and that the Freedom Center would have to submit more detailed plans and respond to family objections to ensure its place at the site.

Meanwhile, a probe by the Government Accountability Office in Washington concluded that a government program to monitor the health of federal employees at the trade center disaster site ''accomplished little" even though city and state programs screened more than 30,000 people.

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