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This post is a guide to visiting the Pentagon Memorial, including how to get here, where to park, what you will see, and other visitor tips.
September 11, 2001, was a lovely, sunny day in Washington, DC.
However, the beauty of that morning would be marred forever when five hijackers took control of American Airlines Flight 77 and directed it toward the capital city.
At precisely 9:37 a.m. the plane crashed into the Pentagon, killing 184 people. There were 59 victims on the aircraft and 125 in the building.
Seven years after the attack, the Pentagon Memorial was opened to commemorate all those who were lost.
The Pentagon Memorial is open 24 hours a day. It’s something to experience both day and night. In fact, it’s one of our top things to see at night in DC.
The memorial is very big and is rarely too crowded.
If you are an early bird, then you might consider coming in the morning. At 9:37 am each day, the flow of water underneath each bench is turned off for a 1 minute moment of silence.
Regardless of how you arrive, we recommend using this Google Maps link for directions to the memorial.
The Pentagon Memorial is easily accessible by Metro. Exit at the Pentagon Metro Station (blue line) and follow the signs around the building directing visitors to the memorial.
If traveling by car, you may park at Pentagon City Mall and then walk over to the memorial.
You can get to the Memorial via I-66 or Route 50 if coming from the East or the West, or via I-95 or I-395 if coming from the North or the South.
Visitors need to park at the Pentagon City Mall, which is less than 5-minutes away.
To get there, simply cross Army Navy Drive near the Macy’s and walk through the tunnel on the opposite side of the parking lot. Signs will then direct you towards the memorial.
You do not need a ticket to enter the memorial and there is no security check, though officers of the Pentagon Police force are on duty and can do spot checks at any time.
Length of Tour: 45 minutes
Begin your exploration of this first national 9/11 memorial at the black granite entry stone that reads Pentagon Memorial.
Take a deep breath and pay homage to the 184 lives lost at 9:37 AM on September 11, 2001, when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed into the Pentagon.
On the second blank stone, you can see the name of all the 184 victims listed in alphabetical order by their last name. The year of their birth will help you locate their memorial unit.
You are about to walk through this elegant, yet simple memorial that honors the lives of those 184 souls by capturing the span of their ages – from a 3-year old to a 71-year old.
The Memorial was designed by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman. They were selected from an applicant pool of over 1100 proposals.
On your right, walk through a corridor of trees to the beginning of the Memorial, where you will see date and time etched on the ground.
This is referred to as the Zero Line.
Each of 184 Memorial Units are sorted by age lines of stainless steel strips by the year the victim was born.
Each unit is a cantilevered bench, and a permanent tribute, by name, to each victim, in one single element.
Each 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 unit is also specifically positioned in the memorial to distinguish victims who were in the Pentagon from those who were onboard American Airlines Flight 77.
At each of the 125 benches honoring the victims who were in 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.
Victims from the same family are linked by a plaque at the end of the pool of water, which lists their family members who also died in the attack, forever binding the family together.
At the line for the year 1998, you see young Dana Falkenberg’s bench with the names of her parents and her sister under her plaque.
The memorial engages the human senses with sounds of flowing water and gravel and shimmer of lights.
The 85 Crape Myrtles planted around the memorial will eventually grow to be 30 feet tall and provide shade to guests. They are arranged so that no tree is associated with a victim’s bench.
You can best see the point of impact of the attack between the 1959 and the 1961 age lines, from the side closest to the Pentagon.
You will notice a charred black stone at the base of the Pentagon. This original stone was excavated from the original building, inscribed, and reset into the renovated structure.
An Age Wall borders the memorial. The Age Wall grows one inch per year in height above the perimeter bench relative to the age lines.
As visitors move through the Memorial, the wall gets higher, growing from three inches (the age of Dana Falkenberg) to 71 inches (the age of John D. Yamnicky).
The Age Wall draws the eye to the Memorial for drivers passing by on Washington Boulevard and the adjacent Arlington County Bike Path while ensuring solitude for visitors.
Chanel this solitude to commemorate the lives marked in this Memorial.
The Memorial is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
While there are no guided tours of the Memorial you may find the audio tour to be a great resource.
You can, however, take a guided tour of the Pentagon by making reservations in advance. The tour is in English and runs for 60 minutes.
On this tour, you will get to see the Department of Defense and its branches and many highlights from the U.S. military history.
Please remember that there is absolutely no photography allowed of the Pentagon. Photos of the memorial are fine, but photos of the building are strictly prohibited.
If you’d like to visit inside the Pentagon, it is open for tours upon advance registration. Pentagon Tours: How to Visit the Pentagon.
What else can you explore in the neighborhood?
A not-to-miss national site near the Pentagon is the Arlington National Cemetery. Explore this national place of interest through our top-rated Arlington Cemetery Tour.
Step away for some lunch and shopping at the expansive Pentagon City Mall.