Construction Underway for Pentagon 9/11 Memorial
By Amy Rubin
In 2002, when Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman first conceived of their design for the Pentagon memorial, they were young and unknown architects and never dreamed that their vision would be brought to fruition. The year before, they received master's degrees in architecture from Columbia University and began working for firms in New York. When the attacks of September 11 occurred, Beckman and Kaseman were on the streets of Manhattan and witnessed the events firsthand. "Keith and I were living in New York at the time of 9/11. We really had the desire to do something to help, but we didn't know what to do," she said.
In June of 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a worldwide competition for the design of a memorial to honor the 184 people who lost their lives in the Pentagon and aboard American Airlines Flight 77. This was the first of the September 11 memorial competitions. From their 280-square foot apartment in Manhattan, Beckman and Kaseman began to brainstorm ideas for a submission. "Keith and I knew it would help our own healing process," Beckman said. "We felt this was the perfect forum into which we could place an idea for discussion."
To create their design, Beckman and Kaseman studied the stories of each of the 184 victims at the Pentagon site. "If I was the mom of three kids who lost their dad, what kind of place would I want to bring them to?" Beckman asked herself.
The memorial will cover a two-acre site on the West Lawn of the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia — 165 feet from the building where the hijacked plane crashed on September 11. One hundred and eighty four illuminated benches, representing each of the people killed, will be spread throughout the site. Each bench, bearing the name of one of the victims, will hover over a pool of water that glows at night. Clusters of maple trees will adorn the site to provide shade over the benches and create a park-like setting.
For Beckman and Kaseman, groundbreaking on June 15, 2006, marked an important turning point toward the realization of their vision. "We've been on board this project now for three-and-a-half years," Beckman said. "When we got started, there was a lot of optimism that the funds would be raised very quickly. But that, in fact, proved to be challenging."
Groundbreaking also marked an emotional crossroads for the 300 family members of victims and survivors of the attack who gathered for the ceremony. Many of them have worked for the past five years to make the memorial a reality. "Today marks a positive outcome from a tragic day," said James Laychak, whose brother David was killed in the Pentagon on September 11.