Northern Virginia

‘Where's Dad?': Man Recalls Shock of Losing Dad in Pentagon Attack

Zach Laychak was just 9 on Sept. 11, 2001. "My dad was my best friend," he recalls

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The families of Pentagon victims will gather Saturday morning to honor the 184 people who were killed there on 9/11. An iconic moment will come at sunrise, when the large flag will be unfurled on the west side of the Pentagon.

Zach Laychak's dad is never far from his mind. A bracelet on his wrist is a constant reminder.

"It has my dad’s name and Pentagon and 9/11/01 [on it]," he said. "That’s something I have on my wrist every single day."

He was just 9, his sister 7, when their father, Dave Laychak, was killed in the Pentagon. Laychak met his wife on the job there, working for 17 years as a civilian budget analyst for the Army.

"When I think back to that day, it’s kind of more the Sept. 12 that really sticks out to me," Zach Laychak said.

That’s when, after sleeping over at a friend’s house, he learned his father had not come home.

"Went home the next day and was, like, you know, 'Where’s Dad?'"

He says the family waited for a week until their worst fear was confirmed.

"People were holding out hope for as long as possible. So, I think it was like a week later, about seven days later, they had found some remains," Zach Laychak remembers.

It was an incomprehensible loss.

"My dad was my best friend and, you know, my mom and sister would probably say the same thing," he said.

Some of his fondest memories of his dad center on sports.

"Pretty much every team that I was on as a kid, he was my coach … baseball, basketball, soccer," Zach Laychak said.

So, to honor his father, Zach always wore a #4 jersey, Dave Laychak’s number when he played college football at Brown. Zach's car license plate also displays the number 4, along with his dad's initials.

"I would love to ask my dad for advice as I approach my thirties … Just try to do things the way I know he would want me to," he said.

Zach Laychak works now in New York City, where he once joined the annual observance at the 9/11 memorial there. During another visit with his family to the museum, in a striking encounter, Rob O’Neill — one of the Navy Seals who killed Osama bin Laden — was there for a book signing.

"I remember, you know, being able to meet him … really being able to shake his hand and, you know, say thank you and so appreciative for what he had done."

Zach says he also appreciates the annual observance at the Pentagon. He hopes this year, with so much division in this country, Americans will reflect and remember how they came together 20 years ago.

"I can’t think of a time in my life when I felt a greater sense of unity … if we could think about that and focus on that, it would definitely be a good thing."

Zach Laychak would also like to see the Pentagon Memorial Visitors' Education Center plans move forward. His uncle leads that effort.

About a million people visit the memorial each year, but Zach and his uncle both believe that, particularly for the many school groups, it is important to have an education center to tell the full story of that day and those who lost their lives.

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