- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon will assemble Thursday morning for the dedication of the first major memorial to the tragedy.

The memorial features 184 benches over small pools of water — each bench bearing the name of a person who died. A small light in the pools will illuminate the benches at night. The benches are arranged by the victims’ ages, so the first one visitors see as they enter is dedicated to Dana Falkenberg, a 3-year-old passenger on American Airlines Flight 77. The last is to retired Navy Capt. John D. Yamnicky Sr., 71, who was also a passenger on the flight.

The airliner hit right below the office of Robert D. Hogue, then the deputy counsel to the Marine Corps commandant.

Mr. Hogue said he watched the memorial being built outside his window “with great interest and some trepidation,” because the benches are aligned to mark the flight path of the hijacked plane.

“It’s just kind of creepy to see,” he said.

Still, Mr. Hogue — now the counsel for the commandant — said he hopes the memorial’s completion and Thursday’s ceremony marks “an appropriate turning point for the nation,” although he knows the families of those killed on Sept. 11 may never find closure.

“I hope and I expect that the ceremony will be dignified and render appropriate honors to the fallen and their families,” said Mr. Hogue, who had not decided whether he would attend Thursday’s event. “At some point, the nation must be allowed to pay its respects and move forward, and that’s where I hope we are.”

The two-acre park will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will be patrolled by the Pentagon Police Department. While it is just a short walk from a Metro subway station, it is on a patch of land previously trafficked almost exclusively by Pentagon workers.

Paperbark maple trees have been planted throughout the memorial, selected because they retain their leaves late into fall and turn a deep red when the colors change, said Lea Hutchins, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon Renovation Program.

From the memorial, the rebuilt section of the Pentagon is clearly visible, the new limestone a slightly lighter shade than the old. Planes coming in to nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport fly low and loud along the Potomac River.

“It’s a great feeling of accomplishment,” said Jim Laychak, the president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, who helped to raise the $22 million for construction and is still looking for another $10 million to pay for the memorial’s upkeep. Mr. Laychak‘s brother, David Laychak, was killed during the attack on the Pentagon.

“When you think about what we have done as a team, it’s amazing,” Mr. Laychak said. “What I feel most though is that Dave’s in a better place. The memorial is for [those of] us left behind.”

Up to 16,000 people, including some prominent Washingtonians, are expected to show up for the invitation-only dedication Thursday, Mr. Laychak said.

Memorials are also planned in New York and western Pennsylvania at the sites where three other hijacked planes hit Sept. 11, but the Pentagon Memorial is the first to be completed.

It has avoided some of the controversies that have plagued other sites. Some family members of those who died when United Airlines Flight 93 went down in a field in Shanksville, Pa., say a grove of trees planned there mimics the Muslim crescent. Proponents say it represents a “broken circle,” not a crescent.

In New York, work on the memorial stopped for a time as officials sought to cut costs from a project approaching $1 billion. Construction of the memorial has also been delayed as part of the overall redevelopment efforts at the World Trade Center site, and has been delayed. Project managers have already given up on being finished next year and have recently warned that it might not be completed by the current goal of Sept. 11, 2011.

In a show of solidarity with the other victims of Sept. 11, the Pentagon Memorial’s opening will also feature a “Healing Field” covered with roughly 3,000 flags, one for each person killed in the attacks.

This story is based in part on wire services

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