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An Understated Tribute to Sacrifice: the Women’s Titanic Memorial

D.C. is home to dozens of memorials, many bursting with grandeur and stateliness.  But some of the most poignant moments that our city offers are found in the lesser-known memorials that are more off the beaten path.

One of these is the Women’s Titanic Memorial, located along the southwest waterfront at approximately 4th and P SW.  It was erected by the female survivors of the sinking of the Titanic, to pay tribute to the men who lost their lives in order to save women and children.

The monument is comprised of a figure wrapped in a billowing shroud, with arms up and out (not unlike Kate Winslet’s iconic pose in the movie “Titanic.”)  The inscription notes that the statue is erected by the “Women of America,” and movingly, the back reads “To the young and the old/the rich and the poor/the ignorant and the learned/all who gave their lives nobly/to save women and children.”  Almost all of the 1,514 people who lost their lives in the ship’s sinking were men (1,352 altogether).

Originally located at the southern end of Rock Creek Park, it was funded and built by the Women’s Titanic Memorial Association in 1931.  It was moved to its current location in 1968 to make way for the Kennedy Center, and is one of dozens of memorials across the world to pay tribute to those killed in the disaster of the Titanic.

One of the best things about this memorial is its location.  It is located at the end of the waterfront pathway—technically the Southwest Waterfront Park—which ends just as Fort McNair begins.  It is a quiet, contemplative spot, framed by rows of trees planted when the waterfront was at its heyday as a bustling commercial center.  And the view is across an arm of the Potomac of the green and lovely Hains Point.

Although it was a British liner, the Titanic was carrying many emigrants seeking to call America their new home.  And thus, while a quiet tribute, the Titanic Memorial fits in well with the ethos of our historic city, one that honors and remembers those who helped our nation become what it is today.

To visit:  A 10-minute walk from the Waterfront metro stop, or the red line of the Circulator stops nearby.

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A Moment of Remembrance at the Pentagon Memorial

Washington, D.C. has many memorials, to commemorate both the large and the small moments in history.  One of the most touching of these is the Pentagon Memorial, a tribute to the men and women who died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the structure on September 11, 2001.

What makes this memorial particularly special is how moving it is, due both to its design and what it represents.  It is comprised of 184 stone benches, arranged in order of the birth years of the passengers and Pentagon staff who were killed.  The first bench that visitors come upon is that of Dana Falkenberg, born in 1998 and thus just three years old when she died.  Three of the benches are for children, a fact which becomes starker when seeing the physical divide between the three benches and that of the next oldest passenger, who was born in 1979.

Brochures at the memorial give more information about the subtle features that the architects included in the design. For example, the words “SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 9:37 AM” at the entrance are etched into a piece of limestone recovered from the wreckage.  And, the benches are positioned so that for those who died at the Pentagon, both the victim’s name and the building are in full view, whereas for those who were passengers on the plane, the name and direction of the plane’s approach are both in view.

The design of the Pentagon Memorial was conceived by Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman, and selected from 1,100 submissions.  The memorial was dedicated on September 11, 2008.

Located on the on the southwest side of the Pentagon’s sprawling complex, the memorial is a 5-10 minute walk from the Pentagon Metro stop.  It can also be accessed by car, though see here for details on driving.

To get there:  Pentagon Metro or many buses from Arlington.  Open 24 hours. Free.

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