We recently took a trip to Washington, D.C. and did quite a bit of sight seeing during our stay.
Our first day began with the Pentagon Memorial. The Pentagon Memorial captures the moment in time at 9:37 a.m. when 184 lives became intertwined for eternity. Each victim’s age and location at the time of the attack have been permanently inscribed into the Memorial by the unique placement and direction of each of the 184 Memorial Units.
Elegant and simple, the Pentagon Memorial serves as a timeline of the victims’ ages, spanning from the youngest victim, three-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was on board American Airlines Flight 77, to the oldest, John D. Yamnicky, 71, a Navy veteran, also aboard Flight 77 that morning.
The 184 Memorial Units within the Pentagon Memorial are located on the age line according to the year the victim was born. The age lines, denoted by stainless steel strips that cross the Memorial, begin at the zero line, which spans from the Gateway to the entrance of the Memorial. Etched into the granite zero line is the date and time of the attack: “SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 9:37 A.M.”
Each Memorial Unit is a cantilevered bench, a lighted pool of flowing water, and a permanent tribute, by name, to each victim, in one single element. Each memorial bench is made of stainless steel and inlaid with smooth granite. Each Memorial Unit contains a pool of water, reflecting light in the evenings onto the bench and surrounding gravel field.
Each Memorial Unit is also specifically positioned in the Memorial to distinguish victims who were in the Pentagon from those who were on board American Airlines Flight 77. At the 125 Memorial Units honoring the victims of the Pentagon, visitors see the victim’s name and the Pentagon in the same view. At the Memorial Units honoring the 59 lives lost on Flight 77, the visitor sees the victim’s name and the direction of the plane’s approach in the same view.
Several funerals were taking place, as they usually do. Helicopters and planes kept flying over the cemetery and we later found out they usually fly over for the services. We made our way up to the Kennedy grave site first.
We continued our walk through the cemetery making our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There was a wreath placement happening by Vets when we walked up. The Changing of the Guard was set to take place just a few minutes later.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of the new Memorial Amphitheater.
The white marble sarcophagus has a flat-faced form and is relieved at the corners and along the sides by neo-classic pilasters, or columns, set into the surface. Sculpted into the east panel which faces Washington, D.C., are three Greek figures representing Peace, Victory, and Valor. The six wreaths, three sculpted on each side, represent the six major campaigns of World War I. Inscribed on the back of the Tomb are the words: Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God
The Tomb sarcophagus was placed above the grave of the Unknown Soldier of World War I. West of the World War I Unknown are the crypts of unknowns from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Those three graves are marked with white marble slabs flush with the plaza.
An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. Soon the new sentinel leaves the Quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle to signal to the relief commander to start the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.
The Tomb Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process. After the turn, the sentinel executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors to signify that the sentinel stands between the Tomb and any possible threat. Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed — the 21-gun salute.
After viewing the Changing of the Guard we continued our way through the cemetery to view some of the historic graves. See below for all of the photos.
On our next journey that day, we walked towards the Lincoln Memorial, National Mall & Washington Monument. The weather was great for a day of walking!