in memory of september 11, 2001 — a visit to the national 9/11 pentagon memorial

Monday, September 11:  Today, we remember the terrorist acts committed on U.S. soil.  The events of September 11, 2001 are ones that we as a nation can never, and should never, forget. The United States experienced the worst terrorist attack in its history — “the coordinated hijacking of four commercial planes, the planned attack on symbolic targets, and the murder of innocent people” (The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial: 9/11 at the Pentagon).

Numerous memorial services are being held today.  As we visited the Pentagon Memorial not far from our home in northern Virginia on Sunday, we saw officials setting up for a Monday ceremony.  This is the first time we’ve visited this memorial, and we found it very moving.

The Pentagon Memorial
Remembrance
What happened

According to the Pentagon Memorial‘s website, “one-hundred-and-eighty-four lives were lost at the Pentagon that day. They were men, women, and children. They were mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons. They came from all walks of life: administrative assistants, doctors, educators, flight crew members, military leaders, scientists, and students. They came from towns and cities, large and small, across the United States and around the world. The youngest was only three years old; the oldest, 71.”

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

The day, I remember clearly, was much like today, sunny, cool, and crisp.  Fall was in the air. I remember wishing every day was as beautiful as that day.

I had put my children on the bus for school early.  My two sons were 8 and 10, and my daughter, who lived in Virginia Beach with her father, was 17.  I was 45 years old. I was driving my car down Reston Parkway on my way to a book group at my church, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, when I heard the news about the first plane hitting the tower. Newscasters were debating about the size of the plane; they seemed to think it was a small plane gone astray.  Then I heard the news about the second plane crashing.  I stopped at Barnes and Noble in Reston to get a coffee, and felt palpable tension and anxiety in the air; fear was etched on people’s faces. I called my brother in New York to make sure he was okay. Then I heard the news of a plane hitting the Pentagon.

9:37 a.m.

When I arrived at church, everyone was in a panic over the news.  Our pastor, who was to lead the book group, was frantic because her husband was in the Pentagon and she wasn’t able to reach him.  Thankfully, it turned out he was fine, though we’d find out later that many were not. We watched the TV in horror as the twin towers fells, and as the Pentagon went up in flames.

memorial wreath from the Association of Flight Attendants

The book group was not to be; we all dispersed to our homes in shock.  I sat spellbound in front of the TV the rest of the day, and when my children came home from school, I told them what we knew so far of the horrifying story.  We watched TV together as news channels replayed the planes hitting, buildings collapsing, people jumping off buildings, dust-covered people walking like ghosts through the streets of New York.  It was surreal and terrifying.

According to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial: Design Elements: the Pentagon Memorial serves as a timeline of the victims’ ages, spanning from the youngest victim, three-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was on board American Airlines Flight 77, to the oldest, John D. Yamnicky, 71, a Navy veteran, also aboard Flight 77 that morning.

3-year-old Dana Falkenberg, the youngest victim

Each Memorial Unit is a cantilevered bench, a lighted pool of flowing water, and a permanent tribute, by name, to each victim, in one single element. Each memorial bench is made of stainless steel and inlaid with smooth granite. Each Memorial Unit contains a pool of water, reflecting light in the evenings onto the bench and surrounding gravel field.

Within the Pentagon Memorial, 85 Crape Myrtles are clustered around the Memorial Units, but are not dedicated to any one victim.

Pentagon Memorial

The Memorial’s stabilized gravel surface is bordered on the western edge by an Age Wall. The Age Wall grows one inch per year in height above the perimeter bench relative to the age lines. As visitors move through the Memorial, the wall gets higher, growing from three inches (the age of Dana Falkenberg) to 71 inches (the age of John D. Yamnicky).

the Pentagon Memorial

Each Memorial Unit is also specifically positioned in the Memorial to distinguish victims who were in the Pentagon from those who were on board American Airlines Flight 77. At the 125 Memorial Units honoring the victims of the Pentagon, visitors see the victim’s name and the Pentagon in the same view. At the Memorial Units honoring the 59 lives lost on Flight 77, the visitor sees the victim’s name and the direction of the plane’s approach in the same view.

The benches facing this direction are the victims of the Pentagon.

Pentagon Memorial
wreath to the AA flight crews
wreath to the AA flight crews on board
Pentagon Memorial
Pentagon Memorial
Pentagon Memorial
Pentagon Memorial
Pentagon Memorial
Pentagon Memorial
Pentagon Memorial

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “in memory of september 11, 2001 — a visit to the national 9/11 pentagon memorial

  1. I agree we should honor the memories of those who lost their lives, those who heroically jumped in to help, some of whom lost lives or are suffering still from injuries incurred, and the families of all of them. I think this event cannot help but have changed, to some degree, the way we live our lives, and I think it was a lesson in awareness. But I also believe we need to avoid extremes in behaviors as a result, and we need to have faith in, and love and compassion for, all of our fellow men, regardless of race, nationality, religious beliefs, or sex. We need to be alert, but need also to not be paranoiac. We need to learn from this horror, but keep hate out of our hearts and minds.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly, Carol. Blaming whole groups of people of a different race or religion is hateful and counterproductive. People frothing at the mouth always want a scapegoat for horrible acts such as these attacks, although only a few culprits were involved. We seem to be run by fear and paranoia these days, especially under our current leadership.

  3. I have seen pictures of the memorial in NY, but not this one, so thanks for showing us. I agree with Elaine, a lot of thought has obviously gone into planning it – successfully, it seems from your post.

  4. I’ve never seen this memorial either, Cathy. I’m always surprised at how long ago this happened. It’s one of those awful events that stays with you vividly. When we look at how many acts of terrorism since then it does make you despair. But if it’s not terrorism it’s man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. The events in Myanmar and Pakistan are a prime example.

    1. I can’t believe I’ve never been to this memorial before, Jo, as I live so close. Yes, all the acts of terrorism, whether from Islamic extremists or white supremacists, or just gun-toting crazy white men — it is all scary. But we can’t cower in fear, can we? It is terribly sad about Myanmar and Pakistan and everywhere else in the world where power-hungry and hate-filled people wreak havoc on other people. I wonder if the world will ever learn and become a more peaceful place.

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