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Groundbreaking Ceremony for Pentagon Memorial Draws families

Article - Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Nearly 300 friends and family of Sept. 11 victims joined Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials outside the Pentagon on Thursday for a ceremonial groundbreaking of a memorial to the 184 lives lost in the 2001 terrorist attack.
The 2-acre memorial, a stone's throw from the site of the suicide attack at the Pentagon's west wall, will feature cantilevered benches set over small reflecting pools for each of the victims. It is expected to be completed by the fall of 2008.

The memorial units will be organized by the ages of the victims, beginning with 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg and concluding with 71-year-old John Yamnicky.

The memorial's design "will remind visitors that every one of these lives was special ... with lives cut short and families left behind," Rumsfeld said during a brief ceremony that drew more than 500 invited guests.

Lisa Dolan, whose husband, Robert, was a Navy officer killed in the attack, said she is pleased with the memorial's design.

"For me it was important to have a place with some peace and tranquility," Dolan said. The designs for the memorial, she said, will make it "a place where you can really sit and reflect. At night, with all the lights, it's going to be beautiful. It's going to be very peaceful."

The design by architects Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman was selected in 2003 from more than 1,000 entries. They incorporated family members' suggestions into their final design. For instance, the pair initially planned to plant a maple tree at each of the 184 benches.

But family members were concerned that when a tree died, its death would be associated with that particular victim. So they reduced the number of trees and will plant them in a manner that no individual tree will be associated with any victim.

Beckman said she wanted the design to emphasize life, and resemble a park more than a monument. Gravel under foot will emphasize the sound of footsteps as visitors explore the memorial, she said.

Rumsfeld said he wants the memorial to convey to future Americans "that their countrymen's grief was turned toward the cause of their nation's defense."

About $11 million has been raised for the memorial's construction. Officials hope to raise $22 million for construction, plus another $10 million for maintenance.

"All of us are making a commitment to finish the job we are starting," said Pentagon Memorial Fund President James Laychak, whose brother David died in the attack.

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