When Darin Pontell was 14, he decided that he would join the Navy. His older brother Steven was a Navy pilot, and he was killed in a crash on the USS Lexington off Pensacola, Florida in 1989.
Darin Pontell, a native of Arlington Heights who moved with his family to Baltimore in 1985, graduated with honors from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1999. Upon graduation, he reported to the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Command in Dam Neck, VA. He was assigned to Carrier Air Wing Seven as the Collections Officer. He was later deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. He received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Naval Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
Lt. Pontell married Devora Sue Wolk, a lawyer, in March 2001. He began working at the Pentagon in April and celebrated his 26th birthday that August. He and his new bride lived in Gaithersburg, MD.
"He was thoughtful and generous and wanted to make everyone around him happy," said Devora. " He would do whatever it took to make his family and friends smile."
He was completing his second night of training in a new position with the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot at the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001. He and six colleagues were piecing together information about the attacks on the World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 77, a highjacked Boeing 757, crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 AM. The jet aircraft slammed into the west side of the Pentagon, where the CNO-IP office was located.
"When he returned to the Pentagon, we felt he was so safe," his father said. "Who would have thought of the Pentagon as a target?"
"He was a good kid. He liked athletics," his grandfather said, and described him as "a computer wizard. He was smart. He had an awful lot of friends."
"I had known my husband since we were about 11," stated his wife Devora. "All he wanted to do was go to the Naval Academy like his older brother, but it was a challenge for him to get in and make it through the four years and graduate with honors. And this is his Naval Academy ring that he wore every day, that marked his accomplishment; he accomplished something that he had set his mind to when he was so young. He was proud to be a Naval Academy graduate and an officer in the U.S. Navy.”
Before Darin Pontell went to the Naval Academy, he worked with his father, an architect, who was left with one son, Michael, now 38.
"Darin and his brother Mike were my best friends," Gary Pontell said shortly after the attack on the Pentagon. "And being that both of them were such family people, we always spent a lot of time together. That’s what I’m going to miss. The Sunday afternoons and Sunday evenings. I’m going to miss the phone calls."
It can only be presumed that Lt. Pontell and his colleagues were killed immediately. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal.
Darin Pontell was buried next to his brother in the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Cemetery.
He is fondly remembered by former shipmates and many others.
The Pentagon Memorial, which consists of a 2-acre park with 184 benches, according to the victims’ ages, from 3 to 71, was opened to the public on September 11, 2008.
Darin Pontell is one of those 184 memorialized here.