- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday led a solemn gathering outside the Pentagon marking the ceremonial groundbreaking for a memorial to the 184 persons killed there September 11, 2001.

“At some time in the future, most of you will return to this sacred ground,” Mr. Rumsfeld told the many friends and family members of those killed in the attack who attended the ceremony on the west side of the Pentagon. “This memorial was meant for you, to offer some comfort … now you can know that we will never forget.”

The Pentagon Memorial, designed by architects Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman, will honor those killed inside the building and on American Airlines Flight 77, which hijackers crashed into the building.

It will include 184 illuminated benches arranged according to the victims’ ages, from 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg to John D. Yamnicky, 71. Reflecting pools also will be built beneath each bench.

Nearly $11 million of the $22 million needed to construct the memorial has been raised, said memorial officials, who also are hoping to raise $10 million for maintenance costs. Construction is expected to be completed in 2008.

More than 500 people attended the ceremony, including White House Cabinet members such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, local dignitaries such as D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, and Virginia Republican Sens. George Allen and John W. Warner.

Mr. Rumsfeld and the Pentagon Memorial Fund’s president, James J. Laychak — whose brother David was killed in the attack — spoke to the crowd before unveiling a limestone marker that will be part of the memorial.

“Today marks a positive outcome from a tragic day,” Mr. Laychak said, recalling in his speech his brother’s laugh and bear hugs. “Let’s remember what was special about those we lost.”

The ceremony was an emotional affair for the victims’ friends and family members, as the celebration of the memorial’s beginning still was clouded by what was being remembered.

“It’s a bittersweet day, but there’s a huge amount of accomplishment and pride,” said Lisa Dolan, a member of the board of directors of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, whose husband, U.S. Navy Capt. Robert E. Dolan Jr. was killed in the attack. “The memorial being built shows the world that we’ve come back … We’re not going to forget.”

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of the ceremony’s participants, said the ceremony served as a reminder of where the United States has been and where the country is going after the attacks.

“It’s a chance for those of us who have the privilege of wearing the uniform of the United States to rededicate ourselves to this country,” Gen. Pace said. “These deaths mean something.”

Joey Ricketts, a Boy Scout from Lynchburg, Va., who is creating a memorial in his hometown to “all the innocent lives lost” on September 11 as part of an Eagle Scout project, also attended the ceremony. He said he was motivated “in every single way” by attending.

“I’ve raised $10,000,” said Joey, 15, who was to receive after the ceremony a piece of the Pentagon that was damaged in the attacks to use in his memorial. “For a 15-year-old, that’s pretty good.”

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