The $22 million memorial commemorating the 184 people who perished in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon was dedicated two weeks ago. A memorial may be beautiful or homely, sophisticated or crude, monumental or unassuming: That’s not really the point. A rough stone stele can be as effective as an intricately carved marble catafalque. But, as Andrew Butterfield wrote in the New Republic a few years ago in the context of a 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero, a memorial does need to do three things: It marks a spot, it says who, and it says so forever. How does the Pentagon Memorial fulfill these requirements?
The Pentagon is a surprisingly low building whose immense bulk only becomes apparent as you walk around it, which you must do to get from the nearest Metro stop to the memorial. The two-acre site is immediately adjacent to the place where American Airlines Flight 77 struck. Hence, much of the power of this particular memorial derives from the simple fact that it marks the actual place where the event occurred.
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