Pentagon renovation begins to repair effects of 9/11

Posted 3:48 p.m. April 10

by Marcus Mrowka
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Seven months after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon knocking out an entire portion of the building, the renovation process is well underway.

Often overshadowed in the media by the cleanup at ground zero in New York City, the reconstruction of the historic building has made considerable progress with the damage areas scheduled to re-open Sept. 11, 2002.

The construction project on the part of the building hit by the aircraft has been dubbed the “Phoenix Project” by contractors and other members of the renovation team. The Phoenix is a bird that has long been symbol of rebirth and immortality.

The construction team’s motto of “let’s roll” echoes the last words of Todd Beamer, the man who is believed to have attacked the terrorists on board United Airlines Flight 93, causing the hijacked plan, en route to the Washington, D.C. area, to crash in Shanksville, Pa.

After assessments of the damage soon after Sept. 11, Mr. Lee Evey, program manager for the Pentagon Renovation Program, said that there would have to be “a much more extensive demolition than we at first thought.”

Workers began tearing out the remains of the damaged section Oct. 18 and took one month to finish. The team waited until October out of respect to the victims and the mourners who were still holding memorials and vigils at the site. Reconstruction began the day after the area had been completely demolished Nov. 18, concentrating on the 400,000 square feet of building area that needed to be rebuilt.

By December, the team had begun to insert blast-proof windows to help protect the structure. The building contained similar blast windows before the attack, and Pentagon officials report that they greatly helped in reducing the damage and the causalities.

By March the building was reconstructed up to the fifth floor, and on April 5 there was a topping out ceremony held to celebrate the completion of the structural concrete work on the five story building. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and fire and rescue crews from 9/11 attended the event.

A giant countdown clock has been placed on the exterior of the building. The clock will reach zero at 9:38 a.m. on Sept. 11, exactly one year after the attack. Evey says that the clock is “just to remind everybody of our commitment and what we intend to do by that date.”

Contractors have been working 20 hours a day, six days a week on the reconstruction process. There are usually about 500 to 600 workers working on the project from dawn until dusk. The project has a budget of $740 million and Congress has allocated another $300 million to the renovation process.

All work on the Pentagon, including construction that was already in progress when the attack occurred, is scheduled for completion in 2010. The original date was 2014 but was changed with increased funding.

Officials said the reconstruction crew has gone to great lengths to see that the reconstructed Pentagon looks like the original.

“Where it looks like brick, it’s not brick; it’s actually reinforced concrete,” Evey said about some of the measures taken to make the building look original.

There have also been effort to make the building more structurally sound in case of another attack. The Phoenix team used spiral rebar, which is normally used in areas of seismic activity, in the reconstruction. Rebar is a low-grade steel that goes through a structure to provide extra support.

The construction crew has also worked closely with the Army Corp of Engineers and private companies to identify problem areas and come up with more secure devices.

People in the building and in close proximity at the time of the crash have been interviewed to get their view on how they think the building’s original safety devices performed during the attack and how safety and security can be improved in the future.

The Army Corp of Engineers is working on a memorial for the site. Plans are still in the developing stages.

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