By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 29, 2008 - The husband-and-wife team who designed the Pentagon Memorial spent a gray, misty afternoon with their creation yesterday, just two weeks before its public opening. Keith Kaseman's and Julie Beckman's proposal for the memorial's design was chosen from more than 1,100 submissions in March 2003. Soon afterward, the New Yorkers moved to Alexandria, Va., near Washington, where for more than three years they worked with construction plans and fine-tuned design details.
The memorial, Beckman said as she strolled across the grounds with her husband, will provide a "very special place on Earth" dedicated to the memory of the 184 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
The memorial "is very contemplative, very peaceful," Beckman observed.
Located just outside the Pentagon, the memorial park features 184 granite-topped, stainless-steel "sculptural elements," said Jean Barnak, the Defense Department's project manager for the memorial. These elements, she said, represent the 125 lives lost in the Pentagon and the 59 deaths aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when terrorists plunged the plane into the Pentagon's west wall.
Each element has a reflecting pool of water at its base, Barnak said, which is flood-lit in the evening. The families of the attack victims also had a hand in the memorial's design, she said.
"Throughout the whole process, the families wanted to make sure that the designers were creating a park where people could come and remember and reflect and renew," Barnak said.
Kaseman, the memorial's co-designer, said he and his wife employed a sophisticated, three-dimensional, computer-aided design program during the memorial's modeling process. Such precision was necessary, he pointed out, noting that each sculptural element contains eight primary structural components involving 28 different companies.
"That's just one example of how unique and challenging" the project was, Kaseman said. "So, it's a major success on an intellectual front, as well."
Barnak said she's very pleased with the memorial, noting that its gracefully curved structures, trees, and the soft sound of rushing water from the reflecting pools combine to produce a sense of peace and tranquility.
"I am conscious of the fact that this park does do that for people when they come out here," Barnak said.
The memorial will be officially dedicated at a Sept. 11 ceremony hosted by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Thereafter, it will be open to the public 24 hours a day.