Friday, September 12, 2008

Pentagon 9/11 Memorial: A Guided Tour

The Healing Field and the USAF Memorial in the background.
The field of flags is a temporary feature.

Until yesterday, Washington's newest monument and memorial was the United States Air Force Memorial. As of 09.11.08, our newest memorial is the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. Situated on nearly two acres of land on the west side of the Pentagon, the memorial honors and remembers the lives of 184 souls lost on 09.11.01 in the worst attacks on American soil since 1941. It's location on a military reservation with public access is unprecedented, but fitting and right.

As you enter the memorial, you cross a threshold created by stones taken from the rubble of the Pentagon and etched with the date and time American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the western facade of the building. Yesterday's entry begins with a picture of that threshold.

The bench of eight-year old Zoe Falkenberg.
She and her three-year old sister, Dana, were
the youngest victims of the terror attacks.
Their benches face eastward, indicating they were on Flight 77.

There are 184 cantilevered benches across the memorials two acres. They are situated by age--beginning with the youngest victim, three-year old Dana Falkenberg (born 1998) and ending on the other side of the acreage with 71-year old retired Naval officer John Yamnicky (born 1930.) As you walk the perimeter of the memorial, years are set in stone and stainless steel runners indicate the dateline and those born in that year who died on 9/11. Within those birth years are the benches of each victim. For example, when looking for Scott Powell's bench, a USAF sergeant informed me he would be found in the row for 1966--Scott's year of birth.

One of the 125 benches facing westward,
indicating the individual died in the Pentagon.

The benches are oriented based on whether the person who perished was in the Pentagon or on the airplane. Each bench is engraved with the name of the person who died. If you're standing at the end of the bench looking at the name and you see the USAF Memorial in the background, that person was in the plane and their bench is facing eastward toward the Pentagon. If you're looking at a name and you see the Pentagon as your backdrop, that person was in the building and their bench is facing westward toward the USAF Memorial. Fifty-nine benches are oriented eastward and 125 are oriented westward.

A son remembered: many visitors left mementos and flowers

Visitors may leave mementos and flowers. These items and organics are gathered up every day at 8:00 p.m. The flowers are discreetly discarded and the tangible items are cataloged and held by the military for 30 days. At the end of that period, the items are reviewed and are either sent to the family of the individual upon whose bench they were left or remain in the possession of the Pentagon Memorial archives.


The memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is recommended that visitor's use Metro, as there is no visitor parking on the military reservation for the public. The memorial can be accessed by riding the Blue or Yellow lines and disembarking at Pentagon Station. If you must drive, parking is available in the Pentagon City Mall--about a 10-minute walk from the memorial.

This is the third and final installment in this series on the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, however I can guarantee I'll be going back and taking and posting more pictures in the months ahead. To see additional photos from last night's visit to this serene, healing memorial, please visit Standing Room Only.

An additional photo essay from the Washington Post can be found here.

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 09.11.08


Virginia said...

You did a spectacular job capturing the mood of this place. Another grand guided tour.

marley said...

D.C, this is a moving series of posts. The photos are wonderful. I think you have done a fine job reporting this memorial to us. I'm so glad you were there to find Scott's bench for your sister, this part of your post was the most moving for me. If you don't mind I'm going to link my post on saturday to this series.

Maya said...

As usual, you have taken beautiful photographs. It's too bad the flags aren't staying. They evoke a powerful emotion and make for a great image!

D.C. Confidential said...

Virginia: Thanks! I hope I conveyed some of the emotion of this healing memorial.

Marley: I've had several email exchanges with my sister today and then an email she forwarded me from Scott's brother and her colleague, Art. If you'd like to read more about Scott, go here.

Maya: I know. I wish the field of flags were permanent, too.

Tash said...

Thank you so much for posting your photos. I saw a little of the unveiling on morning news & thought it moving...with your pictures of people sitting on the benches and the photos also, it's just heart wrenching. It's so very important to have a place to remember them all.

D.C. Confidential said...

Tash: Thank you! It's a lovely, interactive memorial. My understanding is, the architects who designed it were inspired by Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the tactile experience it provides visitors. I think they've created an equally evocative space that will likely become one of the most visited memorials in the Washington area.

john said...

A great set of images.

D.C. Confidential said...

John: Thanks!

USelaine said...

Thank you for this.

D.C. Confidential said...

USElaine: You're welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read it.