Spontaneous Memorial to Terrorists' Victims Grows Daily
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 28, 2001 As her father held her in his arms, Samantha Murphy, 4, asked him about the big board full of American flags and handwritten notes they were looking at. "This is a place where people can say goodbye," he said.
They were visiting a place where hundreds of people have said goodbye to victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. The place is called "the memorial." It's a place where a few people first laid a bunch of flowers and mementos on a green hillside near the Pentagon crash site. Then, in the days that followed, others came along and added more flowers, handwritten notes, teddy bears, flags, posters, candles, soft drinks and a host of other items. Then came large posters, banners and a bulletin board.
The word spread about its existence, and now the spontaneous memorial grows in size every day.
Army Maj. Ken Murphy and his wife, Kris, were visiting the memorial with their young daughters, Samantha, and Danielle, 2.
"We were telling Samantha that sometimes people make bad choices and a lot of people from other countries made bad choices and did this," said Maj. Ken Murphy, who works at the Pentagon in the Army's Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.
Murphy said the memorial would "help guys like me who have been so busy since this happened. We went into what we've been trained to do. It has been almost two weeks now, and this is the first time I've really looked outside the building.
"So it (the memorial) helps to put things into perspective," Murphy said. "It will keep what happened in people's minds for a long time and they will not forget about the lives that were lost."
Most of the people visiting the memorial seemed to be civilians, Murphy said. "I don't think the press has brought out the fact that the majority of the people killed inside were civilians -- people who were just doing their jobs," he said.
When nine-year-old Sarah Hay of Haddonfield, N.J., found out her family was coming to Washington, she told her mother she wanted to see the Pentagon crash site. Her mother, Franjee Hay, said, "We were coming for her grandfather's 75th birthday and she said, Mom, we're going to Washington; can we see the Pentagon?'
"I said do you really want to see it," Franjee Hay said. "She said, 'Yeah, I think I really, really need to see it.' I said yes because I think it's something they'll never forget. They have to see it so they'll never forget it."
Sarah said she wanted to see the crash site "because I wanted to tell my class about what happened, and how bad this was, and that we should pray for people who died."
Her brother, George, 12, said he wanted to see the Pentagon, too. "It seemed so horrible," the sixth-grader said. "Seeing it on TV doesn't really tell you what's going on. You have to see it for yourself to really realize what the horror is. Now that I've seen it, I realize how bad this was. It was just horrible. It just seemed like a movie from the TV."
George said he'd definitely talk to his class at Haddonfield Middle School about the Pentagon crash site and the memorial. Sarah is a fourth grader at Central Elementary School in Haddonfield.
Their mother said seeing the Pentagon brings closure for them. "It's important that they realize that it's not just a picture on television -- this really happened," she said. "They were ready to come see this. But I don't think I would take them to the New York site because that would be a little bit too overwhelming it's too big. But I appreciate that she wanted to see the Pentagon. She'll remember this forever.