By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 12, 2006 – The Pentagon Memorial will be an important way to remember the victims of Sept. 11, 2001, and will be a place for their family members and others to gain solace and inspiration, a top Defense Department official said here today.
"This is a very important event here at the Pentagon because this was the first time the Pentagon had been targeted in a serious attack by terrorists, and it hit home for everybody that works here on a daily basis," said Michael Donley, director of administration and management in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. "So it's very appropriate that we should be remembering the events of that day by establishing a memorial on the Pentagon reservation for those who died here."
The start of construction on the Pentagon Memorial site will be marked by a June 15 ceremony at the site. The ceremony will be important because it represents the work of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, which so far has raised more than half of the $22 million needed for the memorial, Donley said.
"It represents the accomplishment of three years' worth of work, and it really shows that the memorial is going to be built," he said. "So it's a really important day for the families and for the Pentagon community."
The Pentagon Memorial Fund is made up largely of family members of Sept. 11 victims, Donley said. These same family members were involved in the design selection for the memorial, which was a competition sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers that drew more than 1,100 entries, he said.
The design of the memorial centers around 184 benches, each bearing the name of one of the people killed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, Donley said. The benches will be arranged by the victims' ages, and will be separated into two groups for those who died in the Pentagon and those who died aboard American Airlines Flight 77, he said.
"There's a lot of thought that went into the design of the memorial, and it's very oriented around the victims of that tragedy," Donley said. "I think it will provide a space for remembrance of those victims and for their families to perhaps gain some solace and perhaps some renewal and inspiration from their lives."
The memorial should be finished in summer or early fall 2008, Donley said. The memorial will be open to the public, and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency will develop a security plan to isolate it from the rest of the Pentagon reservation, he said.
The memorial will not only provide honor to the victims of Sept. 11, but will send an important message to the rest of the world, Donley said. "It sends the message that we will not forget the events of Sept. 11, and any terrorist organization or foreign power that rises up against the United States will meet a very, very determined country," he said.