9/11 Victims Honored in First Permanent Memorial

A single memorial unit represents each Pentagon victim. The unit, consisting of a smooth granite top bench over a lighted pool, is specifically positioned in a 1.93-acre park to distinguish American Airlines Flight 77 victims from those who were inside the Pentagon.   The 184 who were killed during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack were commemorated Thursday at the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Va.

Hundreds attended the opening of the memorial. Some solemn and with great honor came to show their respect for those who lost their lives, while others with silence tear-soaked eyes, came to honor the memory of their loved ones.

“Obviously there is going to be a certain level of emotions that go along with escorting each family member to these benches” said Spc. Trent Cryer, of the United States Army. “For most of the families this is the first time that they’d seen the benches.”   The memorial park, which cost $22 million to build, was the design of the Kaseman Beckman Amsterdam Studio of New York. The group’s design was chosen from more than 1,000 submissions to the memorial design competition. Once the design was chosen, construction began on the memorial site, which was selected by the U.S. Corps of Engineers and a Family Steering Committee comprised of victim’s family members, in the fall of 2006.

Officers from each military division were on hand to help family members find their loved one’s memorial; as well as to give information about the Pentagon Memorial’s design. Each unit is arranged by year of the victim’s birth, starting in 1998 with the youngest victim, Dana Falkenberg, of Maryland.   The benches of the 59 victims who lost their lives on Flight 77 face the Pentagon, representing the plane’s direction on that day. The other 125 benches face away from the Pentagon, representing those who were inside the building.  Each bench is engraved with the victim’s name.   Though the victims were collectively commemorated with a granite plaque in Arlington cemetery in 2002, the Pentagon Memorial provides each family with an individual symbol of their deceased.   Kathleen Johnson, a recent Florida State University graduate, said the memorial was a special kind of remembrance place. 

“These are their tombs,” Johnson said. “If you want to come visit your uncle Charlie, you come and you lay flowers here, because Charlie doesn’t have his own headstone anywhere. Not only are you going to come to it as a family member, but so is the rest of the country, and the rest of the world.”   An Age Wall lines the left side of the park, starting at 3 inches at the memorial of Falkenberg, then 3 years old, and increases to 71 inches, the age of John D. Yamnicky – the oldest victim.   For Bob Henson, a Department of Defense Civilian, said the memorial helps to make the Pentagon friendlier to citizens.

“The Pentagon is a lot more open than it used to be,” he said. “Now you can have tours if you plan months in advanced. This is open 24/7, you don’t have to plan, you can just come here and see the moments of the D.C. area, this is one of them now.”