Saturday, October 24, 2009

PSU Alumni Pentagon Tour

Today we went on a tour of the Pentagon hosted by the Penn State Alumni DC Metro Chapter. Matt and I figured this would most likely be our only opportunity to ever see the inside of the Pentagon so we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately (but understandably) there is no photography allowed inside or anywhere around the Pentagon (with the exception of the Memorial Garden). It was a grey rainy day but we made our way down to Arlington via the Metro (not our favorite mode of transportation).

There were 17 people total in our group and it took about 35 minutes to get through security, it was like a mini airport security line. Of course only one person set off the metal detector and had to be wanded... Matt! Luckily security did not view him as a threat to national security and allowed us inside.

Inside the hallways of the Pentagon reminded me of the hallways of old college buildings. Not fancy, just practical. We walked the hallways and observed many of the displays of various country flags, descriptions of national disasters, etc. I found the most interesting portion of the Pentagon the section that held the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This hallway was unlike the rest, it was framed in dark hard wood, included a very fancy wooden stairway and had its own entrance. It was obvious this was the entrance important people use (not the PSU Alumni tour). :) This section also had large portraits of all the previous Joint Chiefs and on the floor directly above was the Secretary of State's offices. This hallway also had portraits of the former Secretaries of State. Matt noticed at one point in history one of the Secretaries had a picture frame of his family painted into the background of his portrait. From then on, all the portraits included them as well. I found it touching, Matt pointed out that since one guy did it, they rest of them had to in order to keep a happy home. I bet he's right.

The most moving moment was visiting the internal 9/11 memorials. There was an office in the rebuilt wedge that the Navy dedicated to the employees they lost on 9/11 as well as a memorial and a chapel. Since there was no photography allowed inside I found these pictures online. It was really interesting to see a Purple Heart Medal up close (unfortunately it is not shown in the image below).

The Chapel.

After the internal tour we headed out to the Memorial Garden. From here I was able to get pictures of the Pentagon itself.

The dark block is one of the remaining blocks from the original structure. It marks the exact point where American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

The entrance to the Memorial.

A Saint Anthony medal hanging from a nearby tree.

The victim's memorials are arranged by year of birth. Sadly this was the youngest of the victims.

A Memorial bench.

Pentagon employee victim's memorials face away from the building, the Flight 77 victim's memorials face towards the building.

I feel extremely lucky to have had a chance to see the inside of the Pentagon and the Memorial is very touching. It is something I will never forget and something everyone should do if they have the chance.

God Bless America


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