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National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial moves new visitor education center forward with fundraising campaign

National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center concept art. (9/11 Pentagon Memorial Fund image/Released)
March 02, 2021

The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is preparing to expand with a new education center to educate visitors about the events at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked an airliner and crashed it into the building.

Pentagon Memorial Fund, Inc. (PMF) Executive Director Jim Laychak said the idea behind the new education center is to “tell the story about what happened that day, because there’s a lot of people that come to that memorial, but there’s no place else to go to learn more.”

The memorial receives about a million visitors each year, around two-thirds of which are school children born after the 2001 attacks.

“People need to understand history, people need to understand what happened, people need to understand the heroes that went back into that building, the heroes that were the family members that went on with their lives despite one of the worst tragedies,” Laychak said.

Philadelphia 76ers point guard Vasilije Micic reflects at a bench during a team tour of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, Oct. 12, 2016. (Marvin Lynchard, DoD photo/Released)

Currently, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial features a series of 184 light benches just outside of the Pentagon itself. Each bench bears the name of a victim at the Pentagon killed by the terrorist attack.

“The families believe it’s one thing to have a name on a placard, it’s another thing to be able to be able to educate and talk to people, to put a real person behind those names,” said PMF President Sean Connaughton.

National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center concept art. (9/11 Pentagon Memorial Fund image/Released)

The vision is for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to have an education center similar to those that already exist at the Ground Zero Museum in New York City, New York and the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The PMF envisions the education center will feature ten different exhibit areas including exhibits describing the 9/11 attacks, the conditions at the Pentagon on 9/11, the local, national and global responses to the 9/11 attacks, an exhibit with interactive biographies from the 184 individuals killed at the Pentagon, an exhibit detailing the construction of the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, a “Never Forget / Always Remember” exhibit detailing the continued legacy of the 9/11 attacks and a family gallery exhibit.

National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center concept art. (9/11 Pentagon Memorial Fund image/Released)

The new education center will be located to the southwest of the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, built a short walking distance on the west side of Washington Blvd. across from the memorial and the Pentagon itself. The education center is also a short walk to the east of Arlington National Cemetery.

National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center concept art. (9/11 Pentagon Memorial Fund image/Released)

Partners for the education center include the U.S. Department of Defense, FBI, TSA, the Flight 93 National Memorial, the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, the 9/11 Tribute Center, the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution and the Washington Nationals, among others.

Donors for the project also include the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, Amazon, Transurban, the Marriott Foundation, the Cafritz Foundation, the NFL and the MLB. 

With the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaching, the PMF is also collaborating with the U.S. Department of Defense on plans for a 20th commemoration of the tragic day of the attacks, to honor the stories and memories of the 184 lives lost that day.

For a limited time, the Pentagon Memorial Fund is giving away remembrance wristbands for any donation of at least $10 at their fundraising website. Whether it’s $10 or $500, every contribution brings the foundation closer to its goal to build the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center.