Plans for 9/11 visitor education center move forward

A sign for the 9/11 visitor education center. (Photo: WJLA)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) -- This Friday September 11th marks the 14th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the kickoff of a capital campaign to build a multi-million dollar educational facility.

The goal of the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Center is to ensure that no one forgets that fateful day in 2001.

An ABC7 news camera captured construction workers erecting a large sign at the site of the future center which is located near the Pentagon Memorial. Adrianus von de Meerakker of Holland was pleased to learn of the construction plans. He said, "We must tell the people what happened."

Jim Laychak, who lost his brother David in the Pentagon attack is the President of the Pentagon Memorial Fund. He envisions a multi-purpose structure that will feature interactive exhibits, educational programs, walking tours and a reflection area dedicated to victims, survivors and first responders.

"We realized three year old kids watching the events on 9/11 that day didn't remember what was so vivid in all of our memories and that was planes crashing into buildings. That's when we realized it was an opportunity to teach about what happened here."

For now, the focus is on fundraising. "Were looking at 60 million to design and build the structure and we want to put another 15 million in maintenance and operational endowments to keep it running," he explained.

184 lives were lost when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Nilda Ballentine still gets emotional when she thinks back. "Historically, it needs to be in our hearts forever," she said.

The Pentagon Memorial is the only 9/11 memorial that lacks a visitor education center. Laychak hopes having one will honor the victims and ensure the tragedy is never forgotten.

Groundbreaking should take place in 2017 and the Visitor Education Center could be open by 2020.

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