Panel selects Pentagon memorial

Pentagon employee David Laychak, 40, left behind two children and a loving family when he lost his life on Sept. 11, 2001. To honor him as well as the other 183 victims of the Pentagon attack, the Army Corps of Engineers issued an open call last year for the design of a memorial; 1,100 entries were received.

“There were lots of designs that I liked, but there was a real consensus when it came to the winning design,” said James Laychak, David’s brother and a member of the family steering committee that played an integral role in the selection process. “It was such a democratic process that whatever came out of the discussions could have been defended.”

Laychak and architects Keith Kaseman and Julie Beckman were on hand to discuss their winning design Wednesday night at the National Building Museum.

More than 100 people listened intently to the architects as they whisked through a PowerPoint presentation displayed on the darkened wall of the lecture room.

“We wanted to build a monument that told the story of what happened that day,” Kaseman said. “But not just to tell who they were, but what their lives meant.”

The monument, set on two acres of grass that border the Pentagon, will include 184 individually labeled benches with lighted reflecting pools underneath, as well as a canopy of paper bark maple trees shading a finely crushed-gravel surface.

“We wanted to create a tactile, sensuous environment,” Beckman said. “We chose gravel that is solid enough to be wheelchair accessible but loose enough to hear your footsteps as you walk.”

“We chose the paper bark maple trees because they really register change throughout their lives, as well as the seasons,” she added. “The brilliant red leaves hold on a little longer in the fall, creating another effect.”

The aluminum benches, bearing the names of those lost, will be cantilevered over individual pools. Set in line with the flight path of the hijacked plane, the benches will start with the youngest victims and end with the oldest.

“It’s the first layer, beginning to tell the story, as well as the first hint of the demographics,” Beckman said.

“The families chose the site, and we tried to lock in a moment of time. You can drive by and mentally pause,” Kaseman said. “Our goal was to engage everybody, exactly where it happened.”

Laychak said the effort has raised about $300,000 in private donations thus far, and he and his colleagues are now looking for corporate donors.

With the project’s budget set at $20 million, the planners have a lot of work ahead of them, but time is not an issue, Kaseman said. Construction on the memorial will not begin until $8 million have been raised.

“There is a high level of integrity on this project – quality comes ahead of everything else,” he said.

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