Pentagon Memorial Symbolism Guide

As a part of my resident tourist proclamation, I’ve decided to visit more of the monuments, museums and attractions in Washington, DC.  Next stop: Pentagon Memorial.

Pentagon Memorial

“We claim this ground in remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001.  To honor the 184 people whose lives were lost, their families, and all who sacrifice that we may live in freedom.  We will never forget.”

These somber and reflective words welcome visitors of the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, DC.  On a gray, stone slate near a raised American flag, are the names of the 184 victims of the Pentagon attack.

The pathways surrounding the outer ring of the memorial are paved, but as you approach the commemorative benches and reflecting pools, the pathway turns into gravel, causing one to step more cautiously and slowly, and adding to the serene mood that envelopes the memorial.

Symbolism is a huge part of this memorial and I’ve explained the site’s major symbolism below.


The Threshold:  Constructed with the charred debris from the Pentagon, the threshold takes you back to the very moment of the terrorist attack.  Listed in bold letters is the date and time: September 11, 2001 — 9:37 AM.

The Wall:  Surrounding the memorial is a concrete wall which initially stands only three inches from the ground.  The number three represent the age of the youngest victim, Dana Falkenberg.  The wall increases by one inch steps until it reaches 71 inches, the age of the oldest victim of the Pentagon attack, retired U.S. Navy captain, John D. Yamnicky, Sr.

The Date Plaques:  Along the perimeter bench of the memorial, visitors will find date plaques; the first year encountered is 1998, the last is 1930.  These plaques correspond with rows.  If you follow the rows, clearly designated by stainless steel tracks,  you can view the memorials of those who were born in that year.

The Benches:  Each victim is honored with a gently sloping bench and a reflecting pool.  The names of the victim are engraved into a stainless steel plate on the bench.  Beneath the names, on a plaque inside of the reflecting pool, are the names of any family members who also died in this tragedy.

When facing the names of the victim, one is able to look up and determine where the victim died.  If you look up from a name and see the Pentagon, the victim was inside the building at the time of the attack.  On the other hand, if you look up and see open sky, the victim was on the plane, American Airlines Flight 77, when they died.

The Pentagon:  Take a close look at the building in order to see the color variation of the stone used during reconstruction.  The lighter colored stone serves as a chilling reminder of the exact location of the plane crash and a reminder of how unpredictable fate can be.

Looking across the new Pentagon Memorial, the young, naked Maple trees gives one the impression of newly planted hope; and as they grow and bloom, America will be reminded of the blossoming togetherness that we have experienced as a nation since this attack.  The memorial reminds us that life is unpredictable and can be quickly taken away, but that a memory lives on forever after.



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  • Tammy Goff McFarland

    what are the round metal things in the ground all around in the gravel?

    • Hey Tammy! Are you looking at the metal beneath the benches? Each bench sits atop a reflecting pool. These pools contain the names of the victims. Are you planning to visit the memorial? It’s an amazing tribute.