Thursday, June 15, 2006

Forced Air

The various vampires, headless horsemen and entrenched DC bloggers afraid to cross the running water of the Potomac are most likely unaware of three giant pillars slowly being erected on a hill above the Pentagon. I hadn’t noticed them until a few months ago when the first stacks started peaking up over the highway and I drive by the site off 395 everyday. I was more impressed they had torn down one of the ugly dorm-like Navy Annex buildings that sit between the highway and Arlington Cemetery.

But as these odd, blue sheathed pillars grew taller I puzzled at their purpose. The best we could speculate was perhaps they were the legs for a new Pentagon water tower, even though it seemed unlikely. So I dispatched PIAB intern K to find an answer, as she formally resided nearby. And though she had at least 2 weeks to make her inquiries, she failed miserably at even starting an investigation.

So risking arrest, detainment and the general MP harassment that one would expect a shady character like me would naturally receive after getting pulled over for being too near the Pentagon, I went to correct K’s nonperformance. This is what it looks like up close…

Consider, please, what will soon be the National Air Force Memorial.

Back in 2001 the House passed a little thing called HR 2586 ($317.2 billion Defense Spending bill for 2002 and the first year of the War on Terror.) and nestled inside was a provision calling for “the Secretary to offer to the Air Force Memorial Foundation an option to use up to three acres of the Arlington Naval Annex for construction of the Air Force Memorial.” Though the memorial had been in the works for several years (including getting booted from the grounds of the nearby Iwo Jima statue for drawing too much attention away from the Marines) it wasn’t until early this year that the results have become apparent. It’s scheduled for completion this fall.

Designed by James Freed (who passed away recently but whose work at the drafting table also produced the Ronald Reagan building and Holocaust Memorial among other DC landmarks) the imagery of the three pillars is meant to represent the “upward bomb burst” maneuver ofter performed by the Thunderbirds of the Air Demonstration Squadron. But allusions to the Air Force’s “missing man formation” also seems pretty evident to me. Reagan’s funeral was the last example of one of those I can think of around here.

The memorial site itself sits on the front end of the Navy Annex and some of the planning pictures seem to indicate that the rest of the buildings up there will be demolished to make way for an accompanying 3 acre park. But the best vantage point to get a sense of the spires assumed towering majesty may be the Citgo situated down the hill. But I pity the average tourist who tries to buy gas because they require a military ID before you can get the sweet Army discount. (You also need an ID to buy anything from the attached store. For example, let’ say radiator coolant. And you especially need one if the coolant only costs $2 and your car is smoking in the parking lot and you just need enough to keep it from locking up and make it to a garage. But they will allow you to use the soda machine outside so you can buy 16 ounces of Dasani that the attendant suggests may work. But doesn’t.)

So why should suburb hating DC blogging community care about some far off goings on in Arlington? Because this sucker is giant. 271 feet of DC skyline altering huge. And when friends ‘n’ family visit to see the cherry blossoms they’re going to want to know what the hell that thing is over there. Look at the speculative picture.

Two more from other airborne angles ici et ici.

Now, if I’m putting this on a “web log”, I must have an opinion about it, right? Of course I do, but it may not be what you think. I like the idea of an Air Force Memorial. I like idea that they are tearing down the ugly Navy Annex buildings. I even like the design and that it’s distinct and that Arlington is still the most venerable place in the country to honor our military’s fallen. But while I like all these things as individual parts of an entire memorial, as a whole, the project bothers me.

The exact flight path of Flight 77 on September 11th will probably never be mapped, based on the plane’s angle at impact there is a good chance that it flew either directly over or very close to where this monument is being built. In fact, that same hill between the Navy Annex and Citgo is where the media and curious onlookers gathered for the best vantage of the fire and destruction. On the heavy traffic mornings when we creep along Route 27, the highway between the Memorial and the Pentagon, I can’t help but to consider the people who were in a similar situation when 77 thundered by at over 500 mph 30 feet above their cars.

The groundbreaking for the memorial of the 184 people that died on 9-11 at the Pentagon happens today. It’ll sit a few dozen yards from the Pentagon’s rebuilt outer ring and will no doubt be a very reverent domain. But whenever I’ve been in that area I’ve often felt that this reverence exists not merely from the side of building but extended back skywards through the path of the plane. And without dwelling too long on theories of space-time and dimensional continuity, I feel that having a large, essentially claw-like structure flaring 270 from the ground disrupts this venerated airspace.

Of course, the specifics surrounding this project were in motion long before September 2001. And to be honest these reservations of mine seem rather odd and difficult to describe. I’m sure that when the blue protective sheathing is removed and the metallic spires reflect the spectrum of the setting sun, all of these complaints will be forgotten.

Update: Radio Interference.

1 comment:

Fletch said...

Frankly, I bet those phalluses will serve as ariel Jersey barriers to prevent another attack, following the exact same path as flight 77, striking the Pentagon. Also like the Jersey barriers, they will serve as a visual blight on a once beautiful city.