Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tourist Tuesday: Pentagon Memorial

In light of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 this past weekend and my thoughts on this mile-marker, I decided that today's Tourist Tuesday would be about the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial here in Washington, DC.

I'm sure everyone has included Ground Zero or the World Trade Center site on their "must see" list when visiting NYC ever since that fateful day, and rightfully so, it's truly breath-taking in magnitude and sobering in reality. I'm not sure though that anyone thinks to include the Pentagon Memorial on their "must see" list when visiting Washington, DC, do they? My family has visited countless times, and I can't even remember if I have taken them to it, have I? I'm sure it just gets forgotten amongst the numerous other memorials, sites, museums, and attractions this city has to offer, but I don't think it should be forgotten any longer so I've decided to tell you about it.

First of all, yes, you can visit the Pentagon Memorial. I guess because it's at the "Pentagon" it has an elusive aura about it, but it is actually fairly simple to get to. All you have to do is hop on the metro - on the Blue or Yellow line - and get off at the Pentagon stop, which is only right across the Potomac River in northern Virginia. Then, follow the signs around the building to the Memorial. Easy, schmeezy.  (Although, it is probably a half-mile walk around the Pentagon. It is the world's largest office building after all!)

While the Pentagon itself is massive, the Memorial is smaller. You really don't need much to understand what happened, or to make a statement.

Courtesy of NewsHour, via Flickr

The Memorial was dedicated on September 11, 2008, shortly after Chris and I moved to DC. It was actually one of the first memorials we visited as new residents to this area and it was the first time I had visited a 9/11 site. The first thing I noticed was its proximity to the highway. I could only imagine the confusion of the those on their morning commute watching a plane flying so close overhead and watching it crash directly into the side of the Pentagon. The next thing I noticed was how intentional and informative the site was designed. Each "wave," as I like to call them, represents a person that was killed in the attack, whether on the plane or in the Pentagon. Each wave is placed within an "age line" indicating their birth year. So, not only do you truly see the magnitude of the attack from the quantity of people memorialized, but the age lines humanize the waves by showing the range of ages of those that died, from a toddler to the elderly. You can't help but think of those that died that were born the same year as you, or your parents, or your friends. You can't help but realize that these people were just like you and I.

The "waves." Courtesy of jjgardner3, via Flickr

Lastly, the water flowing under the waves and the trees planted in the area are a great reminder that life goes on and that the memory of those that perished will live on through all of us. Standing in the shadow of the repaired Pentagon, you really get a sense of the chaos and loss that took place there that day. But more importantly, you get a sense of the passage of time and the peace that that has afforded us. It is a sobering, thought-provoking, memorializing, and inspiring site, and one that I think everyone should include it on their next visit to Washington or their next stroll around the city.

If you can't make it to DC in the near future, the Pentagon Memorial has a great website that I suggest you visit: It has pictures and biographies of those that died, an interactive map of the site, photos and videos, FAQs, and even an audio tour.


  1. I love this memorial. I visited over a year ago while I was doing the 9/11 memorials field study with Dave Thelen at AU. It's disturbing, like a fresh graveyard, with all of the concrete and new vegetation. I want to go again after the trees grow up a bit.

    If you ever get into the Pentagon, there's a sort of shrine, with medals and flags, in the rebuilt portion that looks out onto the memorial. It's open to visitors and I think it's part of the regular tour. Definitely check out the guestbook in the shrine, where people can write down their own reflections on 9/11.

  2. This is great. Steve and I were SO confused by what the waves meant and why they were organized the way they were...

    I think the most amazing thing is being there and realizing that this is where the plane crashed. This is where those people lost their lives. Being Americans, we have memorials for all these wars fought on foreign soil, but rarely can we stand on the actual spot. And we saw all the footage on TV, but it seemed so far away, like a different place.

    It was also crazy to see the names - see the little kids that died. The families. You imagine people flying, sitting with their moms, dads, brothers, children, losing their lives that day. You think of the people that boarded the plane as strangers and are now bonded together. It's moving....


  3. I couldn't agree with either of you more! Thanks for adding on to my thoughts! And, Katie, thanks for the great tip about going inside, I will definitely have to do that someday.

  4. After reading your post, I told my husband we had to go to the memorial. We went today. I immediately started crying. It is just so hard to take in, but so well done.

  5. I'm glad you guys were able to go and enjoyed it!


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