Walking into the Pentagon Memorial in Washington D.C., where a hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 took the lives of 189 people on September 11, 2001, a dense quietness blankets the air. The memorial is a public place, but the atmosphere is intensely private. No one can tell you how to feel about the memorial, just like no one can tell you how to feel about the events of that day. It is a place to take a moment to reflect in your own personal way.
Pentagon Memorial Design Elements
The Pentagon Memorial Landscape
Within the Pentagon Memorial, 85 Crape Myrtles are clustered around the Memorial Units, but are not dedicated to any one victim. These trees will grow up to 30 feet to provide a canopy of shade over the Memorial for years to come.
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 Age Wall draws the eye to the Memorial for drivers passing by on Washington Boulevard and the adjacent Arlington County Bike Path, while ensuring solitude for visitors. Ornamental grasses mark the boundaries of the Memorial.
The Memorial Units
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.
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.
Victims from the same family are linked by a plaque at the end of the pool of water, which lists their family members who also died in the attack, forever binding the family together.
The Pentagon Memorial Gateway
The 184 Memorial Units within the Pentagon Memorial are located on the age line according to the year the victim was born. The age lines, denoted by stainless steel strips that cross the Memorial, begin at the zero line, which spans from the Gateway to the entrance of the Memorial. Etched into the granite zero line is the date and time of the attack: “SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 9:37 A.M.”
Visitors to the Memorial may look up a victim’s name and birth year on the locator stone within the Pentagon Memorial Gateway. On age lines with multiple victims, the Memorial Units are organized by birth date along that line.
The Pentagon Memorial captures that moment in time at 9:37 a.m. when 184 lives became intertwined for eternity. Each victim’s age and location at the time of the attack have been permanently inscribed into the Memorial by the unique placement and direction of each of the 184 Memorial Units.
Elegant and simple, 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.