Posts Tagged ‘American Airlines Flight 77’


Victims of the Terrorist Attack on The Pentagon Memorial

There are a number of local memorials and tributes to the victims of the September 11, 2001, series of coordinated terrorist attacks launched by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States.  The most well-known of these tributes is The Pentagon Memorial, located just southwest of The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia.  Other local memorials include ones at Georgetown University Memorial Park, the memorial fountain at National Memorial Park, the Dave Bernard Memorial Garden, the 9/11 Heroes Memorial Highway, the memorial flags and plaque at Westwood Country Club, the Wilton Woods Memorial Garden, the Leckie Elementary School Garden Memorial, the Montgomery County 9/11 Memorial, and one of the more unusual ones, The Lummi Nation Totem Poles.  There are also a number of groves of trees planted as living memorials to the victims of that day, including ones located in Langden Park, Penn Branch Gateway Park, and Historic Congressional Cemetery.

In recognition of today’s 14th anniversary of the attacks, I visited another of the memorials, the group burial site in Arlington National Cemetery, known as The Victims of Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon Memorial.  Located at the southern end of Section 64, near Patton Circle (MAP), this memorial specifically commemorates the victims of the attack on the Pentagon.  It honors the five individuals for whom no identifiable remains were ever found.  A portion of the remains of 25 other victims are also buried at the site.  But the memorial honors all of the victims from that day.  The names of the 125 Pentagon employees, as well as the 53 non-terrorist passengers and 6 crewmembers who were aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the building are inscribed on the memorial.

The Victims of the Terrorist Attack on The Pentagon Memorial was commissioned by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and was dedicated on September 12, 2002, the day after the one-year anniversary of the attacks. It was designed by the Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, John C. Metzler, Jr., who drew inspiration from a memorial to the 253 dead of the United States Coast Guard ship USS Serpens, which is also located in Arlington National Cemetery.  The memorial is a 4.5 feet tall pentagonal marker, which is constructed from granite provided by Granite Industries of Vermont, Inc., the company which is also the sole provider of headstones for the cemetery.  On five sides of the memorial along the top are inscribed the words “Victims of Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon September 11, 2001”. Aluminum plaques, painted black, are inscribed with the names of the 184 victims of the terrorist attack.  There are five plaques, one for each side of the marker.  The names of those aboard Flight 77 are marked with a diamond in front of their name. The names of those for whom no remains could be identified are marked with a star in front of their name. A pentagonal base extends approximately 5 inches out and 5 inches down from the main body of the memorial.

The Victims of the Terrorist Attack on The Pentagon Memorial is one of the more somber memorials simply by virtue of its location within Arlington National Cemetery, considered among the most hallowed grounds in the country.  It’s location is also adjacent to the Pentagon, within sight of the scene of where the terrorist attack occurred.  Combine its location with the fact that the memorial also serves as the final resting place of many of the victims, and it makes this memorial one that should not be missed, especially on a day like today.

The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

The Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

Today is the 13th anniversary of the Tuesday, September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a series of four coordinated attacks launched by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States, using four passenger airlines to attack targets in New York City and the D.C. metropolitan area. It is estimated that the attacks killed almost 3,000 people, and caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage.

In commemoration of the anniversary of the attacks, I rode to The Pentagon Memorial, which is located at 1 North Rotary Road (MAP) on the grounds of The Pentagon, just southwest of the main building in Arlington, Virginia. The Pentagon Memorial was opened to the public six years ago today, on September 11, 2008.

The Pentagon Memorial is a permanent outdoor memorial to the victims who died in the Pentagon, or were passengers or crew members aboard American Airlines Flight 77, which was crashed by the terrorists into the building as part of the attacks. The memorial’s design was developed by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman. Their vision for the Memorial was selected from more than 1,100 submissions by a panel of architects, family members, and public figures in the D.C. area, including two former Secretaries of Defense.

To honor the 184 victims, the main focus of the memorial consists of a corresponding number of cantilevered benches, which are illuminated, and made of stainless steel and inlaid with smooth granite. Each bench includes a shallow lighted pool of flowing water underneath it, and is engraved with the name of an individual victim. If more than one member of a family died during the attack, family names are listed in the reflecting pool under the bench in order to forever bind the family together. This is in addition to the separate benches that have been created for each individual family member. Symbolically, the benches representing the victims that were inside the Pentagon are arranged so those reading the names are facing the Pentagon’s south facade, where the plane struck. The benches dedicated to victims aboard the plane are arranged so that those reading the engraved name are facing skyward along the path the plane traveled.

The memorial also includes an “Age Wall” which encircles the area where the benches are located. The wall increases 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 an initial height of three inches, representing the youngest victim, three year-old Dana Falkenberg.  Dana had just celebrated her third birthday, and was on Flight 77 along with her 9-year old sister Zoe, and their parents, Charles and Leslie. The wall progresses to a height of 71 inches, the age of John D. Yamnicky, Sr., the oldest of the 184 victims.  He was a retired Navy captain who was also on the plane.  He was enroute to a business meeting.  Inclusion of the age lines in the architectural design is intended to unify the victims without regard to their status as man or woman, military or civilian, rich or poor.

Other aspects of the Pentagon Memorial include flags, plaques, and walking paths. There are also 85 crape myrtle trees which are clustered around the memorial benches, but are not dedicated to any one victim. These trees will grow to a height of up to 30 feet, and will provide a canopy of shade over the Memorial for years to come.

Memorial services were also held at the Pentagon on this day, as they are on each anniversary of the attacks. A service for employees only is held in an auditorium inside the Pentagon. A smaller service is also held at the memorial site for family and friends of victims, as well as the public.

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The Lummi Nation Totem Poles

An American Indian named Jewell Praying Wolf James took it upon himself to carve a series of totem poles after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.  They were created as a healing gift on behalf of all Native American tribes.  The totems were subsequently dedicated by the Lummi tribe of Washington state as a tribute to those who died in the attacks, and installed in New York and Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, the scenes of the crash sites on that fateful day.

The totem at the Pentagon was dedicated during the opening week of the National Museum of the American Indian in September 2004.  The Piscataway tribe also participated in the totem’s dedication, as they originally owned the land where the totem now stands.  It was later moved to the Historic Congressional Cemetery, which is located on Capitol Hill in southeast D.C. at 1801 E Street (MAP).

Carved from a single tree from Alaska, the structure lies near a grove of trees in the cemetery that were planted in memory of the victims in the 9/11 attacks.  Standing 14 feet tall and six feet around, the two vertical poles are named Liberty and Freedom.  The Liberty pole depicts a female bear with a “grandmother moon” in her abdomen. The Freedom pole depicts a male bear with “grandfather sun.”  The 36-foot Sovereignty crossbar joining the two poles has eagles carved on each end, with two sets of seven feathers representing American Airlines Flight 77, the flight that crashed into the Pentagon. The female eagle symbolizes peace, and the male symbolizes war.

The totem at Congressional Cemetery is eventually going to be moved to the September 11 Memorial Grove that is planned for Kingman Island in the Anacostia River in D.C.  But for now, the pole remains at the cemetery, where it may remain for years to come.

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