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What Is the Pentagon Memorial?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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The Pentagon is a building complex in Washington, D.C., that is the U.S. Department of Defense headquarters. Terrorists attacked the building on 11 September 2001, when they crashed a hijacked passenger plane into it. The Pentagon Memorial was unveiled exactly seven years later, to represent the memory of those on the plane and in the Pentagon who died on that day. Each person has a bench with their name on it, organized by age and birth date in a park-like setting on the western side of the Pentagon building itself.

Hijackers gained control of four planes on 11 September 2001, with the express intention of destroying buildings with the planes. Two of the planes hit the towers of the World Trade Center, causing thousands of deaths in New York City. Another plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon. The passengers on the last plane, which the hijackers were most probably trying to fly into the United State Capitol building in Washington, D.C., learned of the other terrorist attacks and tried to take back control of the plane before it reached the city, but the plane crashed during the attempt.

American Airlines Flight 77 was crewed by six people and had 58 passengers. Five of those passengers were hijackers. When the plane crashed into the west side of the Pentagon building, 125 people who were in the building died. The Pentagon Memorial is dedicated to all the innocent people who died that day.

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On the west side of the Pentagon building is now a park-like area of about 2 acres (about 0.8 hectares). The designers of the Pentagon Memorial, Keith Kasemen and Julie Beckman, included components like soft lighting and leafy maple trees to make the park a reflective place. It cost $22 million US Dollars (USD), and was officially dedicated on 11 September 2008.

Inside the Pentagon Memorial are 184 benches, each with one person's name on it. The benches stand over a pool of light when the sun goes down. The positioning of each bench also reflects the birth date of the individual people. As the youngest person to die in the crash was a three year old girl, her bench is at the furthest end of the memorial, and the next is her sister's bench, because she was eight.

Every person's individual memorial then is located further along, in order of age and birth date. The last bench is in memory of a man who was 71, a retired U.S. Navy captain, who was a plane passenger. The boundary wall starts at 3 inches (about 76 cm) tall on one end and rises to 71 inches (about 5.9 feet) at the other to reflect this.

When a visitor looks at all the benches on the memorial, those for the people who were plane passengers face one way and the memorials for the Pentagon workers face the opposite way. A close look at the names inscribed on the benches reflect this too. To look at the names of the people who died in the Pentagon, a visitor has to look at the building itself, and when reading the names of the people who were on the plane, he or she also sees the sky.

Open to the public all day, all year long, the Pentagon Memorial is free to enter. Although the rest of the Pentagon area is off-limits to visitors and photographs, photographs are allowed inside the memorial. Car parking is available and metro and buses also provide transport links.

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