Heroes of the Pentagon rescue effort following the Sept. 11 attack, athletes, teachers and other Washingtonians selected to relay the Olympic flame over Capitol Hill gathered in the Library's Madison Hall on Dec. 21 to receive instructions.
"You are all here because you have been an inspiration to someone at your workplace or in your family," Alicia Keller told the 14 white-suited individuals waiting to receive and pass along the flame on its way to Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympics. She explained the symbolism of the torch, one example of which is "Light the Fire Within."
Among the torch bearers was Issaac Hoopii, a Pentagon police officer who returned to the burning Pentagon building several times to guide victims out to safety. "Come to my voice," he told people lost in flames and debris.
Another was Francis Slakey, 38, a Georgetown University physics professor who said he thought his May 2000 ascent of Mount Everest inspired his niece to recommend him. Mr. Slakey and his party carried a half ton of litter, including 700 spent oxygen bottles, off the mountain. He has conquered all but one of the world's highest summits.
"I am a big fan of the Library of Congress," Bishop McNamara High School English teacher Beth Blaufuss told the Librarian. She said the Library was her "hangout" while she researched and wrote some short stories.
William Bill, president of the United Negro College Fund and a Philadelphia high school runner during the '70s, said he, like most young athletes, had dreamed of going to the Olympics. "When someone asked me recently if I would like to carry the torch, I said, 'This is close enough.'" "We are honored to see so much vigor and vitality in this time of sadness," Dr. Billington told the group during his welcome. "Don't forget the world of knowledge and the Library's flame that burns for that," he said, gesturing toward the Jefferson Building's torch. "We wish you Godspeed."