Sombre reminders at 9/11 memorial

THE PENTAGON [PeterPaul.ca] — When entering the memorial here to honor some of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, you are morbidly reminded of the youngest victim to perish on that fateful day.

The Pentagon Memorial, located on the southwest side of the U.S. Department of Defense Headquarters, was unveiled publicly on September 11, 2008–seven years after the horrific attacks on the United States. The trees are bare now, the wind brisk.

At 9:37 a.m., Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon in what seemed like a day that would never end — jetliners were falling from the sky into American megastructures for the first time since Pearl Harbour. The world had changed forever, in an instant.

American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 jetliner scheduled from Washington’s Dulles airport to LAX in Los Angeles, departed at 8:10 a.m., ten minutes behind schedule. It changed course with a turn to the south just 34 minutes later. At 8:56 a.m., Flight 77’s transponder was switched off, the 9/11 Commission report says.

Each bench at the memorial has a name inscribed — 184 in total honouring those who died. The five hijackers are not included in the official toll or memorial for obvious reasons. The names of victims who died in the Pentagon face the wall of impact; victims who died on the plane face the opposite way.

Dana Falkenburg, 3, died on Flight 77 as it crashed into the west side of the Pentagon on Setember 11, 2001. Dana was the youngest of five children aboard and her father and mother were also killed in the attack. Charles Falkenburg and Leslie A. Whittington were both 45 when they died. Dana’s sister, 8-year-old Zoe Falkenburg, also perished. This is the only case where an entire family was killed on 9/11.

The remains of Dana along with five others were never positively identified. Those remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery on September 11, 2002. None were directly linked to a victim.

The oldest victim, 71-year-old John D. Yamnicky Sr. died on route to Los Angeles on official business. Mr. Yamnicky, a retired naval aviator, was the final 9/11 funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for victims of the Pentagon attack.

In total, 59 people died aboard Flight 77. In addition, five hijackers, linked to al Qaida, also died. Another 125 people died inside the Pentagon.

Area hospitals treated 106 victims in the immediate aftermath, 57 of whom were treated and released immediately afterwards, an After-Action report by Arlington County said. The victims aboard the doomed jetliner passed over the exact area where the memorial now lies; whispering voices forever lost in the skies above Arlington.

Although fully rebuilt, the scars from that day are still barely visible. Below the benches, a gentle flow of water flows constantly, which over the years will slowly wash away the painful memories of that day.

“It’s really powerful,” PeterPaul.ca special correspondent Lorne Zimmerman said after his first visit.

With files from the Washington Post, U.S. Department of Defense, CNN Transcripts, Arlington National Cemetery Online, Arlington County After-Action Report on Pentagon attack, Popular Mechanics.

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