I view my current job at the Pentagon with a certain sense of awe. As one walks around this building each day, one sees (and becomes) one of a few thousand people who routinely perform their jobs without thinking they’re anything special. But one can’t help feeling a sense of pride and privilege working here, for the historical surroundings if nothing else. The hallways are monuments to military history, and the very sight of the building on the nightly news gives me one of those “hey, that’s where I work” moments. I feel very fortunate to be here.
One really appreciates it on a day such as today. As I post this, the dedication ceremony for the Pentagon Memorial to September 11 is taking place on the other side of the building from where I sit. Job requirements prevented me from attending, but we can see the event taking place on televisions throughout the building. At 2:30 today, the Memorial will be open to Pentagon employees only, which gives us an opportunity to see the site before the official public opening. I am privileged to be one of the first to view this solemn site on this historic day.
The Memorial will officially open to the public tonight at 7:00 PM, and will remain open 24 hours a day thereafter.
I hope to post a couple of pictures later on, but they will have to be cell phone photos. Since I work in a secure area, I’m not permitted to bring any type of photographic device, cell phone or recording media into my work spaces. I could have brought my camera in and left it someplace in the building where it was permitted, but that would have been a major logistical issue for me. So, cell phone photos will have to do.
I should also mention that the solemnity of the day was tainted by a protest outside the building this morning. There’s a small grassy knoll at the entrance to the Pentagon outside the Metro station. This morning, people entering the building were assaulted by a group of pinheads from the Westboro Baptist Church. One of them was singing something, but I couldn’t hear it because I intentionally neglected to remove the earbuds from my MP3 player.
Ironically, as I walked past this group of idiots (who were protected by a flank of Pentagon police and generally ignored by most of the people entering the building), the song playing in my ears was Liar by the Screaming Orphans:
You turn your back another time
You tell me that I’m wasting life
You don’t know me at all
Don’t look me up and look me down
Don’t push me further under ground
‘Cause you’re a liar
Baby, you’re a liar
Amen and appropriate. I’ll post updates later after I visit the site.
I made a feeble attempt to get the cell phone images off the chip and onto the laptop, but there were some issues, and then something happened – I crashed, hard. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym recently and my body is still getting adjusted to the additional strain I’m putting on it. So, by the time I get home some evenings, I’m pretty wiped, and last night was a good example. I don’t even remember getting into bed. The photos will be here sometime over the weekend. Hopefully.
I do want to say that the Memorial is truly beautiful. The bench-like markers representing the victims are arranged chronologically by age, beginning with the name of then-three-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was murdered on board American flight 77 with her parents and her sister. Each bench has its own reflecting pool, which is lit after dark, and the name of the victim engraved on the front edge. Along the back of the Memorial, a wall rises from three inches to 71 inches, with one inch representing the age in years of the victims. The site faces the wall of the Pentagon which was struck by Flight 77. The benches representing the victims in the aircraft point towards the building, while those of the victims inside the Pentagon face away. There are young trees planted throughout the site, which will eventually grow and provide shade for visitors to the site.
The Washington Post has a nice “virtual memorial” interactive image that demonstrates and explains the features of the site.
The site officially opened to the general public last night.
If you’re touring the Washington D.C. area, you certainly have a slew of monuments and memorials to visit. Some reflect the pride we hold for our past leaders – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. Some stand as icons to our form of government, including the White House and the Capitol.
Some sites honor those not-so-famous, the ordinary men or women who served the nation, including those who died for causes greater than themselves – the Vietnam Wall, the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial and Arlington Cemetery come to mind immediately.
This site reflects a different remembrance. We certainly have this place to honor the men and women working for the military services in the Pentagon, both uniformed and civilian, who became the first battlefield casualties in the War on Terror. The Pentagon Memorial also honors the innocent, the travelers who were visiting friends and family or conducting their personal business, who lived their lives the way Americans do, with the freedom to go where they wanted and to enjoy the fruits of their labors, as well the labor itself. They were drawn into this unknowingly and paid the highest price a human can, the same sacrifice we ask our military and first responders to possibly make every day.
This quiet place of honor it the least we can do for them.