NORTHWEST, Washington D.C. – America's top military officers paused for a moment in downtown D.C. Tuesday morning to commemorate the victims of the shooting at the Navy Yard.
Adjacent to the bustling Pennsylvania Avenue and flanked by tall office buildings, the U.S. Navy Memorial is a tourist favorite for its bubbling fountains, sweeping stone floor with inlaid map of the world's oceans, and the solemn "Lone Sailor" statue of a young seaman standing next to his duffel bag and shrugging against a breeze.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and his top officers chose this as the site to commemorate the shooting deaths on Monday at the Navy Yard, the Navy's oldest shore-based facility located across town in Southeast D.C. Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey laid a wreath by the statue on a crisp fall morning, as a lone trumpeter in Navy whites played taps.
They were joined by Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. James Winnefeld, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, whose residence is at the Navy Yard.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and members of the D.C. police force were also in attendance, along with a group of military officers.
None of the officials gave remarks during the approximately 2-minute ceremony.
The shooting on Monday was reportedly carried out by Aaron Alexis, a contractor at the Navy Yard and former enlisted Navy sailor. The attack reverberated throughout the military, prompting increased security at nearby bases, including Joint Base Bolling-Andrews.
Most top Air Force officials, including Acting Secretary Eric Fanning, were congregated at the annual Air and Space Conference across the Anacostia River in National Harbor, Md., on Monday. News of the shooting, investigation and security situation dampened what is usually an enthusiastic and energetic conference.
A Defense official confirmed Tuesday morning that the security status at the Pentagon was back to normal. Employees there, however, anecdotally noted a few more Pentagon Force Protection Agency officers than usual.
Mabus was visibly shaken as he spoke from the MedStar Washington Hospital Center late Monday, where three victims of the shooting were taken for treatment.
"The Navy family today suffered a horrific attack. And we are a family," he said. "The civilians that work in the Navy and do the critical work that has to be done suffered just a stunning and horrific blow today."
The Navy secretary, flanked by Greenert and Assistant Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, said all of the Navy employee victims were "secretary designees," and could be transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center if they needed further treatment.
The Navy had already begun deploying grief counselors for returning employees at the Navy Yard, he said, as well as organizing employees' personal belongings in what has subsequently become a crime scene.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who retired earlier this year, issued a statement Monday night.
"My deepest condolences go out to entire Department of Defense community on the tragic events that unfolded today at the Navy Yard," he said. "Tonight, Sylvia and I will keep in our prayers the service members, civilians, and their loved ones who were impacted by this senseless violence. May God bless the souls of the fallen and heal those who are recovering."