Pentagon's 'Contemplative' Memorial Opens

A permanent memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks was dedicated Thursday morning at the Pentagon and opens to the public in the evening. Its designers worked near the spot where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building in 2001, killing the hijackers and their 184 victims.

"We were looking for a way to create a very special place that's dedicated to each individual," said Julie Beckman, one of the memorial's designers, during a tour of the park as it neared completion. The site has 184 benches. Each is engraved with the name of one of the victims, and each has its own reflecting pool.

"We were looking for really something that you've never really seen before. It's more than just a park bench," Beckman said. "What makes a contemplative, beautiful place really came down to a place to sit, the sound of running water, shade and trees and so on."

The trees that cast shadows across the park are paper-bark maple, which Beckman said has year-round interest.

"The bark itself begins to peel in this beautiful kind of cinnamony red and brown colors," Beckman said.

It's one of the later-turning maples, she said, so when much of the surrounding foliage in Arlington, Va., and Washington, D.C., has already peaked and is beginning to fall, the Pentagon memorial's trees will just be beginning to peak.

"It's kind of a suspension of time in many ways," she said. "It's another unique and beautiful aspect about this place — that it stands out from the surrounding context."

Beckman said the memorial came together with the support of the victims' families, and she's happy to have a place where anyone can go "and begin to make peace with what happened that day."

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