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The Other 9/11 Memorial

Concrete Details: The Other 9/11 Memorial

The elegant and understated memorial near the Pentagon opened eight years ago.

Washington City Paper, Sept. 9, 2016

Those new to the D.C. area—or even long-timers—may not know that we have our own 9/11 memorial, smaller and less dramatic in gesture than the black hole in Lower Manhattan, but no less affecting in its own way. The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial sits on the southwest side of the Pentagon, yards from where terrorists flew a jet into the building on the sunny morning of Sept. 11, 2001, killing 184 people and changing the course of world events.

Wedged awkwardly between the Pentagon and a swirl of I-395 ramps, the elegant and understated memorial opened eight years ago. It conveys the scale of personal losses suffered, if not the global repercussions of the plane’s impact. And it’s obviously an appropriate place to reflect on this week’s 15th anniversary of the terror attack.

But that requires getting there, and good luck with that. The approach by car is confusing, with irregular signs that instruct drivers to double back on themselves, then leaving them adrift in a vast sea of Pentagon parking. Take Metro instead. Either way, the approach to the memorial is strange: With acres of parked cars on one side, there’s a line of waist-high security planters on the other, beyond which lie a buffer zone and the Pentagon. I’m not really complaining—the sense of unease fits. After all, this kind of hyper-securitized landscape, with signs telling visitors that taking photographs is forbidden, is a major legacy of 9/11.

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Photograph by Darrow Montgomery