WASHINGTON — For the family of Angela Houtz of Rockville, Md., the dedication Thursday of the Pentagon Memorial kindled memories of a woman whose smile and wit could light up a room.
American Airlines pilot Bill Durbury of Charlottesville, Va., recalled friends and fellow employees riding aboard American Airlines Flight 77. James Laychak of Alexandria, Va., remembered how his perpetually optimistic brother would always tell him: "Jimbo, today is going to be a dish of a day."
The words on a giant video screen — "We will never forget" — captured the emotions that bonded thousands of spectators gathered at the Pentagon on Thursday to enshrine a park-like memorial honoring the 184 who lost their lives when the hijacked airliner crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Dedicated on the seventh anniversary of 9/11, the memorial is the nation's first permanent memorial to the nearly 3,000 victims of the terrorist attacks. President Bush called it a "reminder of the resilience of the American spirit."
The memorial, designed by two young architects who experienced the horrific day in New York, is composed of 184 benches, each with a name of a victim and illuminated by lighted reflection pools below.
"The day will come when most Americans have no living memory of the events of September the 11th. When they visit this memorial, they will learn that the 21st century began with a great struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror," Bush said. "They will learn that this generation of Americans met its duty: We did not tire, we did not falter and we did not fail."
After addressing an audience estimated at up to 16,000, Bush and his entourage left the podium and approached the memorial site on the western side of the Pentagon, while uniformed men and women from all services stood at attention behind each bench. Applause erupted as the military personnel began pulling off royal blue covers from the benches.
"I think this is great to have," said Leon Golinski of New Smyrna Beach Fla., whose brother, Col. Ronald Golinski, was one of those killed. But, he added, "It doesn't take away from the fact that I wish he was here knocking on my door."
Hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania. Dozens of small memorials to 9/11 victims have been erected throughout the country, but major memorials in New York and Pennsylvania are perhaps years from completion.
Julie Beckman, 35, and Keith Kaseman, 36, who have since married, were only a few years out of college when they entered the design contest for the Pentagon Memorial, competing with more than 1,100 other entries in their first major design competition.
"We were living in New York on 9/11 and experienced the city in one of its darkest hours," Beckman said, adding that she and her partner had no real hope of winning and entered as "a way for us to deal with our grief."
Their winning design, which emerged from among six finalists, is now on display about 200 feet from where Flight 77 slammed into the building. The damaged section was repaired within a year, in time for the second anniversary of 9/11, and is marked by a giant American flag draped from the roof.
Dubury, the American Airlines pilot, clutched a newspaper article that he has carried him since late September 2001. The names of his friends and acquaintances who perished aboard Flight 77 were highlighted in yellow. The victims included two married flight attendants, Kenneth and Jennifer Lewis, who were known among their friends as "Kennifer."
Laychak, whose younger brother David was killed at his desk inside the Pentagon, took charge of a fundraising effort to pay for the $22 million in construction costs and another $10 million for maintenance. In a speech at the dedication ceremony, he expressed hope that the memorial will bring closure "to those who are still in pain."
After the speeches, Angela Houtz's family gathered at the granite and stainless steel bench bearing her name. White flowers lay at the base.
Houtz, a military intelligence officer, was huddled with other officers in a frantic response to the earlier attacks at the World Trade Center when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
"She was the most wonderful person you could ever hope to meet," said her stepfather, Joe Shontere, of LaPlata, Md.
The memorial field is organized as a timeline of the victims' ages, moving from the youngest, 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg, to the oldest, John D. Yamnicky, a 71-year-old retired Navy captain. Both were passengers on the flight.
The memorial units are also positioned to distinguish the victims on the airline from those in the Pentagon. A visitor reading the names of those on Flight 77 will face the sky. Conversely, when standing at a site honoring a victim who was inside the building, a visitor will see the name and the Pentagon in the same view.
"The memorial is very peaceful," said Jackie Lynch of Youngstown, Ohio, whose husband, Terrence, a consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, died inside the Pentagon. "I finally have some place to come visit Terrence."