“If we don’t do something now, how will the next generation remember it?”
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – On this Memorial Day, there is an effort to ensure that future generations never forget the terrorist attacks that changed our world forever.
The Pentagon Memorial Fund is working to build an education center at the 9/11 Memorial in Arlington, which honors the 184 lives lost on September 11, 2001 and all those who sacrificed so we could live in freedom.
“[The younger generation] really don’t understand what happened that day, what happened in response that day and then in the long term, how their life at that time is affected,” said Sean Connaughton, president of the Board of the Pentagon Memorial Fund.
Connaughton, a former Virginia state transportation secretary, told WAVY how 9/11 changed his life.
“I had just left active duty the week before, that morning I had gone to the gymnasium at the Pentagon,” he said.
He was on his way to the Navy Command Center, which is right where the plane crashed, but he checked the time and rushed to a meeting instead.
“And so, there are people I worked with on the reservations as well as people I knew in New York who were killed,” Connaughton said.
Dave, the brother of Pentagon Memorial Fund executive director Jim Laycheck, was unsuccessful.
“And I even remember thinking about what would happen if in 10 to 15 years people walked past the Pentagon and they couldn’t remember which side had been hit because you know, life goes on,” Laycheck told WAVY.
He has made it his mission to erect the first 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon.
It opened in 2008, but unlike memorials in New York and Pennsylvania, it does not have an education center.
“Quite often we say build it and they’ll come, well listen, they’re already coming, that’s why we have to build it,” Connaughton said.
“More than a million visitors a year walk the hallowed ground, but without any context, what do they take away?” said Connaughton. “We see polls saying it was a plane crash, we see social media calling it a plane crash, we see others calling it a bomb.”
An education center, these men say, could put that into perspective. Here you can see a two story building design with high-tech interactive exhibits that will tell the stories of the people who perished, how the world reacted and how it changed after that day.
“Before you could get in the airport and go all the way to the gate and get on the plane, you know now we have TSA and Homeland Security, all those things,” Laycheck said.
“We now have a very divided nation and we seem to be mad at each other for everything,” Connaughton said, and as he can attest, timing can make all the difference.
“We need to teach the next generation that we are much better off working together as a community and as a country than being apart.”
The goal is for the education center to be open by the 25th anniversary of 9/11.
Their goal is to raise $35 million. So far they have raised around $15 million.
They are also asking for a federal credit.
“No donation is too small, and you can be sure you know where your money is going as you try to create something that will be important for future generations,” Laycheck said.
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