Bruce McDermott, the new general manager of The National Conference Center in Lansdowne, Va., wasn't sure how to commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11. With nearly 1,000 guest rooms, the former Xerox Document University outside Washington, D.C., now has the military as its biggest customer. (Xerox employees still work in offices that are part of the complex.) For the hundreds of meeting attendees in training sessions that week, McDermott knew that he couldn't let the anniversary pass without an acknowledgement.
“In my previous job, I was based out of New York. I was a member of the World Trade Club. I probably had breakfast on the 107th floor twice a month. … We lost many people I knew.” He devised a ceremony that was both a public and a personal remembrance — including a bagpiper and a traditional Australian verse, reflecting his Scottish heritage and his upbringing in Australia.
On Tuesday evening, small cards announcing the 20-minute ceremony the next morning were put in each guest room. Notice was given to the Xerox employees as well.
“That morning, we gathered in front of our three flag masts,” McDermott recalls. “The 200 Xerox employees came out and made a circle on the grass, the Marines stood in a clump, and then the army marched out. A lone bagpiper started with four slow airs. Then, during the National Anthem, which was played over the loudspeakers, an army soldier and a Marine, both in uniform, put the flag on the pole, raised it, and then lowered it to half mast.”
McDermott stepped forward to recite:
They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years contemn.*
At the going down of the sun and
in the morning
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.
“I don't think people will ever forget,” McDermott says.
*Contemn: to scorn