The names of all 184 victims who perished at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, were read aloud yesterday during the official Pentagon Memorial dedication ceremony.
The memorial, on a two-acre plot with dozens of maple saplings, consists of 184 illuminated benches, each engraved with a victim's name and arranged north to south from oldest to youngest, respectively.
"I lost my younger brother Dave here seven years ago," said James J. Laychak, Pentagon Memorial Fund chairman. "When I see the reflected sunshine climb up the sides of the memorial units, I see the beauty of life. I hope the Pentagon Memorial will provide a sense of closure and comfort to all those who are still in pain ... The memorial represents what great things can happen when we all work together to create something good."
More than 15,000 people, including families and friends of the fallen, filled the Pentagon south parking lot to remember their loved ones and colleagues on the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attack. During the dedication, several military and government leaders told how the memorial in the Pentagon's shadow will stand as a symbol of a nation's undying memory, love and resolve.
"Parents will come here to remember children who boarded Flight 77 for a field trip and never emerged from the wreckage," President George W. Bush said. "Husbands and wives will come here to remember spouses who left for work one morning and never returned home. People from across our nation will come here to remember friends and loved ones who never had the chance to say goodbye. A memorial can never replace what those of you mourning a loved one have lost ... We pray that you will find strength in knowing our nation will always grieve with you."
Construction workers broke ground on the memorial June 15, 2006, almost five years after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., the moment when stone became dust, steel became shrapnel – where flames, smoke and destruction stole the lives of 184 men, women and children, said former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"This memorial tells a story of their last terrible moments on this Earth," Rumsfeld said. "When a symbol of America's strength was scarred. Today we renew our vows to never forget how this long struggle began and to never forget those who fell first."