By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 6, 2006
The president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund announced yesterday that a groundbreaking ceremony will occur June 15, a huge milestone in the nearly five-year fundraising effort for the 9/11 monument.
About 150 family members and other guests, including Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, are expected to attend the invitation-only ceremony, which will be held at the memorial site on the west lawn of the Pentagon, James J. Laychak said.
"It is one step toward completion of the memorial," said Laychak, who lost a brother in the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. "It gets us closer to the vision that I have of all of us family members sitting in a quiet corner at the completed memorial watching everyone enjoying what we helped create."
Laychak said about $10.8 million has been raised for memorial construction. He said the goal is to raise $22 million for construction, which is expected to be completed in September 2008, as well as another $10 million that will be used to maintain the memorial.
The majority of the money to build the memorial has come from private donations, Laychak said. He said the memorial fund got a grant of nearly $1 million from the federal government recently and has asked for $100,000 from the state of Virginia, but that has yet to be approved.
Among those who will attend the groundbreaking are architects Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman, who won a worldwide competition to design the memorial.
"It is a huge milestone, and I am very excited about it," Beckman said. "It is something that we have been waiting for, and it is timed to go along with real construction that is beginning on the site. We are just thrilled."
The memorial will have 184 cantilevered benches, one in memory of each victim of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Occupying 1.93 acres, the memorial will be 165 feet from where American Airlines Flight 77 hit the building.
After the groundbreaking, construction crews will begin removing underground utilities and work on the installation of a system that will supply water for reflecting pools beneath each of the 184 memorial benches.
Laychak said about $3.3 million has been spent for research and development on components and materials.
One challenge has been to come up with a mold for the memorial benches, which will be composed of one piece of super duplex stainless steel, the same material used in the reconstruction of the Statue of Liberty and in catapults on aircraft carriers because of its high resistance to corrosion.
"We have been continuing the prototyping process for the memorial unit, and that has been going very well," Beckman said. "We were back out at the foundry in St. Louis to see five more prototypes that they have been working on . . . to make sure that 184 of them can be made exactly the same."
About 80 paperbark maple trees will shade the memorial. "They were chosen because they have year-round interest," Beckman said. "They are late-turning maples. The leaves change color a little later than the rest of the maples. So when most of the trees in Arlington have lost their leaves, these will still be a brilliant red." She said the trees have cinnamon brown bark, which would contrast with a gray winter.
Kaseman and Beckman, now engaged, were young and unknown New York architects when their design won a competition that had more than 1,000 entries. They moved out of their closet-size studio apartment on the Upper West Side nearly three years ago to an apartment in Old Town Alexandria to work on the memorial.
"For Keith and I, it has been absolutely amazing to work on this with all the people who have been involved so far," Beckman said. "I know this place will help all of the people for whom the healing process is still going on."