Pentagon Memorial Progress Is Step Forward for Families
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Rosemary Dillard, wearing a hard hat, safety goggles and a reflective vest, stood above two concrete pilings and began to shake as a wave of emotion flowed through her body. She felt a cool breeze -- "Eddie," she said to herself.
Her husband, Eddie Dillard, was one of 184 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
Yesterday, Dillard and a handful of other victims' family members got their first look at the construction of the Pentagon memorial since the groundbreaking nearly a year ago. Family members were given a private tour of the site and later met with reporters.
"I can't believe it," said Dillard, of Alexandria. "Seeing the two pylons where Eddie's bench is going to be, seeing him facing the sky and the Air Force Memorial. I felt that cool breeze when I found his spot, and I want it to be a cool spot. I want people to come here and share this with me and sit on the bench and rub the spot where his name is engraved."
Eddie Dillard was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77 when terrorists seized control of the jet and crashed it into the Pentagon. Rosemary Dillard is vice president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund and has been involved with the project since the idea was first raised weeks after the attack.
She regularly visits her husband's grave at Arlington National Cemetery and said she sometimes pours a little Jack Daniel's whiskey into the ground for Eddie. "If you want to sniff it, sniff the grass," she joked.
For Dillard, the two-acre Pentagon memorial site is sacred ground, a place where she will often come to sit and remember her beloved Eddie. What she hasn't figured out yet is whether a little Jack Daniel's will mess up the water in the pools that will be beneath Eddie's bench and the other 183 memorial benches.
James J. Laychak, president of the memorial fund, whose brother David was killed at his desk in the Pentagon, also toured the site. He said about $13.8 million has been raised for the memorial, which will be built entirely with donated money. The cost of construction is $22 million; an additional $10 million will be raised as an endowment to maintain the memorial.
Dozens of concrete pilings have been poured and cured on the two-acre site. During a private tour with a Washington Post reporter, Laychak said the memorial would be finished by September 2008. Victims' families are trying to decide whether to dedicate the memorial on Sept. 11 or the weekend before.
"We know it will be sometime that week," Laychak said, "but whether we do it on the 11th ... or the weekend before to accommodate families who are coming in, we are still working that out."
It will take two pilings to support each of the 184 memorial benches, which weigh about 2,000 pounds. The benches will be placed in lines, organized by victims' ages. Each age line will be organized by month; the bench of someone born in January will be closest to the Pentagon.
The foundation of a perimeter wall has been poured, and workers have painted ages in red and yellow on the wall to mark the age lines. Yesterday, they were building wooden forms in the ages 44 and 45 group to hold the concrete when it is poured.