Pentagon Attack Mementos Saved for Future Display
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2001 On the last day of November, a wind-swept, sullen sky tossed raindrops upon the wreaths, flowers, photographs, handwritten letters and red, white and blue flags gathered on a knoll overlooking the Pentagon.
As workmen repaired the building's west wall about a half mile away, Army Col. David D. Phillips stood atop the hill and eyed the mementos placed by people from around the world to honor the 184 victims killed when the hijacked aircraft slammed into the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
Phillips said the mementos at this site near Arlington National Cemetery and others nearby would be packed and transported to the Pentagon's remote delivery site to be cataloged and stored.
"We're doing it so they aren't destroyed by the elements," said Phillips, the Army Staff's director of security. He noted the items would be displayed in a planned permanent memorial.
The public began placing mementos near the Pentagon immediately after the Sept. 11 attack, Phillips remarked. Volunteers had kept the sites clean and helped to prevent vandalism, he added.
"Out of nowhere, the people just did it," he said, noting that people across the nation had dropped off items to express their condolences. Phillips believes the mementos, many of which were handwritten cards and letters closing with the words, 'Never Forget,' symbolize American unity during a time of crisis.
"We're all one -- not only the people that were in the building, but also the people outside the building and across the country," he explained.
Laura Landrum, a visitor from Fort Collins, Colo., came to the memorial site near Arlington with her family en route to the Smithsonian Institution.
"It is touching, actually, to see these sorts of memorials here where people have brought a flag, or written something ... it is kind of moving just to see it," she remarked.
Supervisor Ronnie McLendon's team of DoD-contracted movers arrived at the Arlington site to pack up the mementos and load them into a moving van.
"We're going to take our time. This is a delicate operation," said McLendon, who estimated it would take three to four hours to pack the mementos.
Contract employee Michael Banks began filling a cardboard box with American flags, flowers and a brown teddy bear.
"We all knew people" who worked at the Pentagon, Banks remarked. "Hopefully, nothing like this will ever happen again."