THE PENTAGON: Memorial dedicated at solemn ceremony
September 12, 2008 4:00 AM
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Emergency response workers stand above a U.S. flag at the spot where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building, killing 184 people. President Bush dedicated a memorial during the service there yesterday.
By Dave Montgomery McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- For the family of Angela Houtz of Rockville, Md., the dedication yesterday of the Pentagon Memorial kindled memories of a woman whose smile and wit could light up a room.
American Airlines pilot Bill Durbury of Charlottesville, Va., recalled friends and fellow employees riding aboard American Airlines Flight 77.
James Laychak of Alexandria, Va., remembered how his perpetually optimistic brother would always tell him: "Jimbo, today is going to be a dish of a day."
The words on a giant video screen -- "We will never forget" -- captured the emotions that bonded thousands of spectators gathered at the Pentagon yesterday to enshrine a park-like memorial honoring the 184 who lost their lives when the hijacked airliner crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Dedicated on the seventh anniversary of Sept. 11, the memorial is the nation's first permanent memorial to the nearly 3,000 victims of the terrorist attacks. President Bush called it a "reminder of the resilience of the American spirit."
The memorial, designed by two young architects who experienced the horrific day in New York, is composed of 184 benches, each with a name of a victim and illuminated by lighted reflection pools below.
"The day will come when most Americans have no living memory of the events of September the 11th. When they visit this memorial, they will learn that the 21st century began with a great struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror," Mr. Bush said.
"I think this is great to have," said Leon Golinski of New Smyrna Beach Fla., whose brother, Col. Ronald Golinski, was one of those killed. But, he added, "It doesn't take away from the fact that I wish he was here knocking on my door."
Julie Beckman, 35, and Keith Kaseman, 36, who have since married, were only a few years out of college when they entered the design contest for the Pentagon Memorial, competing with more than 1,100 other entries in their first major design competition. "We were living in New York on 9/11 and experienced the city in one of its darkest hours," Ms. Beckman said, adding that she and her partner had no real hope of winning and entered as "a way for us to deal with our grief."
Their winning design, which emerged from among six finalists, is now on display about 200 feet from where Flight 77 slammed into the building. The damaged section was repaired within a year, in time for the second anniversary of Sept. 11, and is marked by a giant American flag draped from the roof.
Mr. Laychak, whose younger brother, David, was killed at his desk inside the Pentagon, took charge of a fundraising effort to pay for the $22 million in construction costs and another $10 million for maintenance. In a speech at the dedication ceremony, he expressed hope that the memorial will bring closure "to those who are still in pain."
After the speeches, Angela Houtz's family gathered at the granite and stainless steel bench bearing her name. Ms. Houtz, a military intelligence officer, was huddled with other officers in a frantic response to the earlier attacks at New York's World Trade Center when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.