- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fundraisers for building a memorial to the 184 persons killed in the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon said they have raised more than half of the $20 million needed to begin construction at the site later this year.

“We’re still making great progress,” said James J. Laychak, president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund Inc. “I’m excited about how far we’ve come, and we’re continuing to move along.”

Organizers have raised $10.2 million for the project, which originally was estimated to cost $18 million.

Mr. Laychak said costs for construction and materials have pushed the total closer to $20 million, but that the amount is still within the group’s projected budget.

Fundraising officials also aim to create a $10 million endowment to provide for care and maintenance of the memorial site.

The memorial, which will sit on about 2 acres on the western face of the Pentagon, 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.

Mr. Laychak said the Pentagon fund is focusing on businesses and donors who each can provide $150,000, which represents the approximate cost of one of the memorial-bench sites.

The approach has struck a chord with some donors: McLean-based consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton donated $450,000 to represent three employees — Gerald Fisher, Terence Lynch, and Ernest Willcher — who were killed in the attack.

“We did this because, first of all, we lost three valued colleagues at the attack on the Pentagon,” company spokesman George Farrar said.

The donation was made in “part as a memorial to them and also because we thought it was the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, memorial designers have been working to refine a final prototype for the bench design, making the benches lighter and considering lighting and water options for the reflecting pools.

“We’ve gone through a prototyping process,” Mr. Laychak said. “So, when you’re ready to manufacture 184 of [the benches], there are going to be 184 of them that are exactly the same.”

Officials expect the memorial to be completed by fall 2008. The groundbreaking for the project initially was slated to take place this fall, but Mr. Laychak said construction could begin even sooner.

“It could be spring, it could be fall,” he said. “We’re looking at a couple different options.”

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