Fundraising drive for Pentagon Sept. 11 memorial comes up short

A three-week fund-raising effort to help build a memorial at the Pentagon to honor victims killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack has fallen short of its goal, but organizers remain hopeful that they will raise the money needed to get the commemorative project off the ground.

"I am not discouraged at all," said Richard McGraw, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's representative for the memorial project. "There is no question but that the funds will be raised."

On Friday, Pentagon officials will award the contract for the Pentagon Memorial to Fairfax, Va.-based Centex Lee LLC. Plans for the memorial include using two acres of land on the west side of the building to erect 184 benches etched with the names of the victims killed in the Pentagon and on American Airlines Flight 77 when the plane crashed into the building on Sept. 11, 2001.

"The memorial benches will be placed in a park-like setting along age lines and underneath each bench is a lighted pool of water," said Brett Eaton, communications director of the Pentagon Renovation Program. The project is estimated to cost more than $10 million and will be paid for solely through contributions.

On July 21, the Volunteer Campaign Management Office for the Pentagon Memorial Fundraiser kicked off a fund-raising drive with hopes of collecting $1 million in donations from Pentagon employees, but fell short of its goal. Over the last three weeks, volunteers passed out fliers, put up posters and sent out mass e-mail messages. Secretary Rumsfeld made an impassioned plea via Pentagon television asking for donations, but McGraw confirmed last Friday that they were still way below the $1 million mark when the campaign closed on Aug. 8. Official numbers for the fund-raising effort are pending.

"It was a very abbreviated campaign, short in the planning time and short in the execution phase because we are running right up against the Combined Federal Campaign and the same people who have been organizing the Pentagon Memorial Campaign are the same people who organize and run the CFC," McGraw explained Monday, adding that organizers were trying to get the project included in the CFC and that would likely bring in more money for the project.

Eaton says the short fund-raising drive, while not successful in raising $1 million, did raise awareness about the project, which should help during the CFC. "The primary purpose was to raise awareness about the need for money and we're hoping that people will remember it when they make their CFC designations," Eaton said.

At the same time, family members of the Pentagon victims have created a nonprofit organization they will use to raise funds to help pay for and maintain the memorial, McGraw said.

In the interim, Centex Lee will study the underground utilities at the memorial site. Project organizers hope to see the project completed by fall 2005, according to Eaton.

"The schedule will be somewhat dependent upon funding, but once we raise the money it will take about 20 months," Eaton said. "This is a unique project in terms of construction in that schedule and budget are not our primary concern. We only have one chance to get the memorial built right."

To make a contribution to the Pentagon Memorial fund, make your check or money order payable to "U.S. Treasury - Pentagon Memorial" and mail it to:

Director, Budget & Finance, WHS
Attn: Pentagon Memorial, Room 3B269
1155 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1155