Pentagon’s 9/11 Memorial
Heidenberger poses at the Pentagon Memorial. Heidenberger
lost his wife, Michele, when
terrorist-hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 plunged
into the Pentagon’s west wall on Sept. 11, 2001.
Michele was the senior flight attendant aboard Flight
77. The memorial “gives
us all a sense of closure,” Heidenberger said.
/ Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
of family members, survivors and first responders shared
their thoughts about 9/11 while visiting the nearly
completed Pentagon Memorial here yesterday.
Tom Heidenberger, 62, lost his wife, Michele, when American
Airlines Flight 77 plunged into the Pentagon’s west wall
on Sept. 11, 2001. Michele was the senior flight attendant
aboard Flight 77, said Heidenberger, a former commercial
airline pilot who lives in Chevy Chase, Md.
recalled that his wife had called him at home in the morning
from Dulles International Airport here before her flight departed
for the West Coast.
last words to her were ‘Have a safe trip and I’ll
talk to you when you get to Los Angeles,’” Heidenberger
said he and his 21-year-old son, Thomas, had visited the memorial
together two weeks ago. The memorial “gives us all a
sense of closure,” he added.
outside the Pentagon, the memorial park features 184 granite-topped,
stainless-steel “sculptural elements” that represent
the 125 lives lost in the Pentagon and the 59 deaths aboard
American Airlines Flight 77. Each element has a reflecting
pool of water at its base, which is flood-lit in the evening.
The families of the attack victims had a hand in the memorial’s
civilian employees Cathy Abell, 53, and Holly Russell, 50,
visited the bench-like structure that featured the name of
their friend, Marian Serva, who was among those in the Pentagon
who perished in the attack.
is peaceful, and it brings a piece of the person back to me,” Abell
said of the memorial. “It gives me a place where I can
come and visit with my friend whom I lost.”
Russell said, is “a nice place to come and reflect and
kind of put life in perspective.”
employee John Yates recalled when the hijacked airliner struck
the Pentagon nearly seven years ago.
offices were located about 100 feet inside the building, right
near where the dividing line was where the collapse was,” Yates
said. “It was a typical day. Who would have thought anything
was going to happen?”
On the morning
of the attack, Yates was a civilian security manager for the
Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel Office, which
sustained a near-direct hit from the plunging airliner.
among a group of people, including Marian Serva, who worked
as a congressional liaison officer in his office, who’d
gathered around a television set watching news coverage from
New York City after two terrorist-hijacked commercial aircraft
had struck the World Trade Center’s twin towers.
age 57, vaguely recalls that the television then exploded.
remember seeing a ball of fire just coming over the top of
my head from my left,” he said. “It was an inferno.”
he somehow managed to crawl below the acrid smoke to safety
outside. He later discovered that four other companions standing
by the television with him were killed in the blast.
left Yates badly burned. Numerous skin grafts have repaired
his hands, but a therapist still treats psychological scars
left from the experience. Yates has since transferred to another
Army agency in Arlington, Va. The memorial, he said, is “beautiful” and “very,
very tastefully done.”
24 people in his Pentagon office, including his supervisor,
Army Lt. Col. Dennis Johnson, died during the 9/11 attack.
have e-mails from some of them,” Yates said, as his voice
cracked and tears welled up in his eyes. “I can’t get
rid of those. … I’ll just keep them.”
Force Protection Agency Sgt. Isaac Hoopii poses with
his present-day canine assistant, Marko, at the Pentagon
Memorial. During 9/11, Hoopii assisted injured people
and pulled security sweeps at the stricken Pentagon with
his German shepherd bomb-detection dog, Vito, who since
has retired from duty.
Photo / Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
County Fire Department paramedic Claude Conde, 40, recalled
being called to the Pentagon in response to the attack.
the lead agency, so pretty much our whole department was here that
day,” Conde said. “We were transporting patients most
of the day.” Conde called 9/11 “a big surprise.” He
conceded he was initially scared as he approached the fiery, blasted
we’re trained to put those feelings aside and [to] try
to help out the best way that we can,” he said.
Memorial, Conde observed, “is very peaceful” in
contrast to the hellish scene he witnessed at the Pentagon
nearly seven years ago. “I think the memorial is very
important to the victims and their families; I think they did
a good job on it,” the paramedic said.
Force Protection Agency Sgt. Isaac Hoopii recalled pulling
security sweeps at the stricken building with his German shepherd
bomb-detection dog, Vito, for six months after the attack.
Vito, he noted, retired from duty some time ago.
that he and his coworkers worked 48 consecutive hours to assist
people who’d been injured in the attack. Later, he said,
they combed the crash site area, “just making sure” that
no terrorist-planted devices — meaning explosives —
were about that could injure or kill more people.
did a wonderful job” on the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, Hoopii
said, noting it is a fitting tribute “to the people who
lost their lives.”
Memorial Fund manager Jim Laychak visits the Pentagon
Memorial. Laychak lost
his younger brother,
David, an Army civilian employee, during the terrorist
attack on the Pentagon.
Photo / Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore
Memorial Fund manager Jim Laychak lost his younger brother,
David, an Army civilian employee, during the attack on the
Pentagon. The $22 million memorial, Laychak said, is a culmination
of years of effort and hard work. “It is a great feeling
of pride and accomplishment. Everybody has worked together
on this over the past five and a half years,” he said.
Memorial “is a special place where people can go” to
remember loved ones who perished in the attack, Laychak said,
noting he’s grateful to friends who assisted him after
the loss of his brother.
who knew me wanted to reach out and comfort me, so I think
part of it is remembering how we comforted each other after
that day,” Laychak said.
memorial will be officially dedicated at a Sept. 11 ceremony
hosted by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Thereafter,
it will be open to the public 24 hours a day.