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My trip to the Pentagon last week;bittersweet but worth it!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

OK, I know you probably want to hear more about my trip to Florida with my son (and I promise you will get ALL the updates!!) but the timing of this specific topic seems more relevant to me right now!

Alright, back to my blog!! Some coworkers and I decided to finally take the Pentagon tour. It is a free tour but you have to register ahead of time, have 2 forms of ID, and go thru security, etc as the Pentagon is technically a joint military base.

The tour itself was very interesting. The oddest thing about the tour is that the Honor Guard soldier that takes you on your tour walks backwards for the entire tour, even when he steps onto the escalator! Besides that, you get to see real clothing items that belonged to General MacArthur along with his famous sunglasses!! After the tour, we hit the gift shop which I must say is lacking when it comes to decent t-shirts or most any other souvenir I was looking for. In the end, I bought a decent baseball cap that shows the Eagle and "1943" which was the year the construction was finished. Talk about crazy coincidence, did you know the ground breaking ceremony for the Pentagon was on September 11, 1941!! That I did not know! I knew that General Leslie Groves was in charge of the project and that he later ran the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos!

During the tour, you also get to the visit the Memorial Chapel. The windows in the lobby in vestibule look out on the September 11th Memorial. It is chilling to know that where I was standing when I was in the chapel was just a few feet from the impact site. In the vestibule, they also have a wall dedicated to those who lost their lives at the Pentagon. One side is for those in the military and the other side is for the civilians.

We had parked at the local mall, Pentagon City Mall, and were walking back to the cars we had come in when I suggested that we walk thru the Memorial. I am so glad I suggested it as it was definitely most worth the extra time it took to walk there and then walk thru it!

The wings are pointed with a purpose. I cannot remember which is which but if the wing faces one direction, it means that person died on the plane and the other direction is for those who died in the Pentagon. The wings also planted in age order of the victim. The first one you see when you walk in is for a 3 year old girl who was on the plane with three other members of her family. Then as you walk further in, the wings become more clustered, especially among the middle age victims. I noticed a carnation was left on one of the wings and I asked the groundskeeper about that, especially since I have seen some rather touching gifts left at the Vietnam Memorial. He said everything is picked up at the end of the day. Perishables, like the flower, are thrown away but the more sturdy gifts are taken into the chapel itself for viewing. He said that a lot of toys are left for the children and at Christmas time, a lot of ornaments are left.

All in all, I am glad that we were able to go and tour the Pentagon as well as walk in the Memorial. I had made a point to drive by the Pentagon within a week after it was attacked but I had not taken the time to come back and see what had been done since. I think it is a very beautiful memorial that is a very sobering reminder of the how our nation lost its innocence in one tragic, horrible, and, incongruously, beautifully sunny morning.

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