Building a Monument to First Responders

Your Monumental Blogger Visits the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial

Your Monumental blogger was in DC recently, and you can bet that I went to the Pentagon to see the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. Here are some photos.

Overall, I liked it. There was a lot of depth to it, in terms of design and layers of meaning. It was like a page from Edward Tufte’s classic book, “Envisioning Information.” Benches were arranged by victim’s birth year, then birthdate and the orientation was descriptive of if they were on the plane or in the Pentagon during the attack.

There was a reflective water element beneath each bench. When the light danced on the water, it reflected upwards on the steel unersides of the bench in an ethereal shimmering effect.

It was heartbreaking to see the bench for three year-old Dana Falkenberg. There was then a lone bench for her sister Zoe (born 1992), three for children born in 1990 (Bernard Brown, Asia Cottom, and Rodney Dickens.) Then there was a long gap until 1979. The area was thick with benches by birth year for the adults, and ended with Capt. John Yamnicky, Sr.’s bench on the 1930 timeline.

There were trees throughout which are still immature. The groundcover was a type of crumbled volcanic looking stone. It was light and crunchy underfoot, but messy. Little crumbles fell into the water below the benches and I saw two groundskeepers scooping them out, going from bench to bench. It looks like it needs constant maintenance.

The periphery was landscaped, but where the benches were was very stark. The overall feel of the field was very sterile, very controlled, and very much “watched over” by the imposing Pentagon structure adjacent to it.

It had a strange dual feeling to it. One one hand you really felt that they wanted the public there to share in the remembrance of the tragedy, and on the other hand I felt very unwelcomed by the Pentagon itself. I felt watched when I was taking pictures. It did not feel as if I could linger there too long.

It is an extremely beautiful Memorial, however. I love its thoughfulness and the care taken with its design and execution. I love the curves and the play of light on the benches. It is built with great reverence and meaning. I look forward to seeing it again over time as the trees mature and with the perceptual filter that a few more years would bring.

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