During a recent visit to Arlington, Va., Ted Barris met the widow of a 9-11 victim. Several times a month, she volunteers to receive visitors in a garden near the Pentagon, where, as they say, the world changed.
It’s a cliché, but most people do remember where they were on Sept. 11, 2001. In the 13 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, however, those closest to the events of that day worry most that the world will forget the victims. During a recent visit to Arlington, Va., Ted Barris met the widow of a 9-11 victim. Several times a month, she volunteers to receive visitors in a garden near the Pentagon, where, as they say, the world changed.
One day last summer, Laurie Laychak came back to the place where her husband, David, died. She visits the recently inaugurated cantilevered benches, crape myrtle trees and light pools of the Pentagon Memorial several times a month. Yes, it’s a pilgrimage. But she’s also on a mission. This day, the Laychaks’ daughter, Jennifer, has joined Laurie for the drive over. Just before her mother meets a group of travel journalists from Canada, Jennifer makes a painful admission to her mom.
“I can’t remember Dad’s voice,” the 20-year-old said.
Minutes later, her mother leads the Canadian writers to one of the 184 memorial benches made of stainless steel and inlaid with granite. Before she begins her story, Laurie kisses the fingers of her left hand and touches the bench engraved with her husband’s name, David W. Laychak.
“I feel compelled to make sure visitors know these people were not numbers but actual lives,” Laurie Laychak said. She’s now 52.
Laurie Laychak seated on the bench dedicated to her husband David Laychak, who was killed in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon’s southwest wall (pictured behind her).
On Sept. 11, 2001, just after 9:30 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77, travelling at about 500 miles an hour, roared over a slight rise in Virginia’s iconic Arlington National Cemetery, clipped ground antennae, bounced off the ground near Washington Boulevard and ploughed into the first floor on the west side of America’s (then) 58-year-old defence department headquarters. The resulting explosion killed all 59 passengers and crew on the jetliner (as well as its hijackers) and 125 inside the Pentagon. Standing metres from the point of impact, Laurie Laychak gestures in the air to illustrate the five rings of offices within the Pentagon; the outermost ring was where David worked that morning in his role as a civilian budget analyst for the U.S. Army.
“He was literally at ground zero, where the plane hit,” she said.
Name plate on the bench in tribute to David Laychak, killed inside the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
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