Laychak is president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, the non-profit organization in charge of fundraising for the memorial. The Fund has raised $10.8 million, mostly from corporate and private donors. The goal is to raise a total of $22 million for construction, as well as an additional $10 million to maintain the memorial.
With half of the money raised to build the memorial, construction has officially begun. "Bulldozers pulled up onsite within a week of groundbreaking, and now there's a big hole," Beckman said. "In architecture, everyone says, 'As soon as there's a hole in the ground, you can be assured it will be built.'"
The designers knew that victims' families wanted the memorial to provoke thought but not prescribe what to think or how to feel. "That really rang home to both Keith and me," Beckman said, "because there were so many different ways that people experienced 9/11, ranging from losing a loved one to running for their lives, from eyewitnessing horrible things to not even learning about it until three days later."
The cornerstone of their design became the "memorial unit" — a bench cantilevered over its own pool of water — to demarcate a special place dedicated to each individual. Arranged according to the ages of the victims, the benches progress from the youngest, age 3, to the oldest, age 71.
Fifty-nine memorial units face one direction, and 125 face the other, to distinguish between the victims on board Flight 77 from those inside the Pentagon. "When you read the name [engraved onto a bench] of someone who was inside the Pentagon, the building is in the background of the view," Beckman said. "When you read the name of someone who was on the plane, the sky and Arlington are in the view."
Their design was one of 1,126 submissions from 50 different countries. The Army Corps created a jury of design professionals, family members, and Washington dignitaries (including two former Secretaries of Defense) to review the entries. Six finalists were selected in October 2002. And on March 3, 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that the jury voted unanimously for Beckman and Kaseman's design.
"It's been a surreal experience," Beckman said, "We were only a year and a half out of school and this was the very first competition we ever entered."
After winning the competition, Beckman and Kaseman relocated to Alexandria, Virginia, to focus their efforts on the memorial's realization. Though funding has taken longer than expected, Beckman said the process has been a relatively smooth one and the victims' families have been very supportive of the design.
When comparing the processes of creating memorials at the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, Beckman said the opposition at Ground Zero may have emerged because so many more people were killed. Another difference is that the Pentagon memorial is located on land controlled by the Department of Defense, whereas multiple agencies and commercial interests are involved at Ground Zero.
"All we ever hear [from the families] is thank you so much for your design," Beckman said. "We're really happy that it sits well with everyone."
She continued, "Our project got criticism like any project does, but it never reached anywhere near what's been happening in New York. We're incredibly grateful for that."
Now Beckman and Kaseman are focused on keeping the project on schedule, especially for the sake of victims' family members. "I think the families are working as hard as they are to get this built so that, for many of them, the healing process can actually begin," Beckman said. "A lot of family members are still struggling, and I think the five-year anniversary is hitting some of them quite hard."
She also hopes the completion of the Pentagon memorial will be seen as a positive development by those working to create memorials at Ground Zero and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on September 11. "I think it's encouraging for all three of the sites that this one is underway. It will likely be the first one done and will serve as the 9/11 memorial for everyone until the other ones are done."