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Families, Media See Progress at Pentagon Memorial

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2008 – Family members, co-workers and the media got to assess the progress being made in building the Pentagon Memorial Park today.

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Construction continues on the Pentagon Memorial Park as workers ready for the Sept. 11, 2008, dedication of the memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Defense Department's headquarters. Defense Dept. photo by Jim Garamone

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The park commemorates the 184 people killed when terrorists slammed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001. A total of 59 of the dead were aboard Flight 77, and the rest were in the Pentagon.

“We’re on schedule for the dedication on Sept. 11, 2008,” said Jim Laychak, the president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund.

All of the memorial’s 184 commemorative benches have been cast, and about half are in place. Rows of stainless-steel benches and trees point to the place on the Pentagon where the plane hit.

Today’s weather reminded one family of the day of the attack: it was clear and in the mid-70s, with a slight wind. But the sounds of that day – shouts, sirens, fires burning and medical evacuation helicopters – were replaced today by the sounds of construction equipment continuing the work of building.

Fund-raising for the memorial park began soon after the tragedy. “Pentagon employees contributed more than $500,000 in a fund-raising effort we had in 2002,” Laychak said. “Each year, the [Combined Federal Campaign] brings in about $150,000 to $200,000 from Pentagon employees.”

The memorial will cost $22 million, and the families want a $10 million endowment fund to maintain the memorial for generations to come. The fund is within $3 million of the building goal, and Laychak – who lost a brother in the terrorist attack – said he feels confident that the fund will reach the goal.

Construction began on the 1.9-acre site in June 2006, and fundraising efforts continue.

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