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‘Light Benches’ Project Chosen To Honor 184 Pentagon Victims

By Elizabeth Levin

The 184 people who died at the Pentagon in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will be commemorated by benches and pools of light honoring each victim, the Department of Defense announced Monday.

An 11-member committee, selected by the Pentagon, chose “Light Benches,” by New York architects Julie Backman and Keith Kaseman, from 1,126 entries submitted by an international group of designers.

“It’s a contemplative design in its conception, which I think means that it will put people in the appropriate state of mind,” said Terence Riley, the committee chairman and chief curator of design and architecture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The memorial will be built by the Pentagon renovation team on a 2-acre site near the spot where American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the western face of the building. Its scheduled dedication is Sept. 11, 2004.

Each of the 184 benches will be engraved with a victim’s name and cantilevered over a pool of light. Clusters of trees will be planted to provide shade for visitors.

The benches will be positioned according to the age of the victims, progressing from the youngest, age 3, to the oldest, age 71. The names of the 125 military and civilian workers who died will be inscribed so that the Pentagon is their backdrop. The names of the 59 passengers and crew members aboard the Boeing 757 jet will be placed with the sky as their background.

The construction of the memorial, which is estimated to cost between $4.9 million and $7.4 million, will be funded by donations to the Department of Defense.

Harold Brown, a former secretary of defense and a member of the selection committee, said he wanted a design that would “memorialize the individuals who died in the attack and ... somehow represent the survival, the prevailing of the U.S.A.”

Jim Laychak, one of two family members of victims on the committee, said he wanted the final design to honor the memory of his brother, David, an Army budget analyst, and all the other victims.

“I like that it is a collective memorial, but still has an individual feel to it,” Laychak said. “In an elegant way, the memorial tells the story of what happened at that place at that time.”

The decision on the Pentagon memorial comes less than a week after officials in New York City chose a design by Berlin architect Daniel Libeskind for the World Trade Center site.