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Pentagon Recovery Efforts Winding Down - 2001-09-20


Recovery efforts are slowly winding down at the Pentagon, struck by a terrorist-commandeered airliner a week ago.

At the Pentagon, the families and friends of the 190 or so victims still come and stare silently. Some stand arm-in-arm, others alone. Some cry, others remain stone-faced.

It is a poignant place - this special viewing point set aside on a gentle rise just beyond the hubbub where workers and machines move around the great gash torn in the side of America's defense headquarters.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says good progress is being made at removing the last bodies and debris.

But the work is taking a toll on the men and women, military and civilian, engaged in the grisly yet loving effort to bring closure to those on the knoll whose loved ones remain officially unaccounted for.

Army Sergeant Major Aubrey Butts says supervisors are keeping a close eye on those involved in the search and recovery mission. "When they come out, we have people who look them in the face and if they get sick in there or they cry or they hang their heads down, we immediately pull them off the team to make sure they can get through tomorrow as well as the rest of their lives," he said.

To help ease the stress triggered by horrible images, long hours and the like, a special facility has been hastily erected in a Pentagon parking lot close to the work site.

It has been dubbed "Camp Unity." There, soldiers, FBI agents, fire and rescue personnel and others are offered amenities including free food, clean clothing, blankets and pillows and access to phones.

Most are too tired for idle talk. But a few, asked to share their feelings, make clear their hopes that the fatalities at the Pentagon and at New York's World Trade Center, are quickly avenged.

Senior officials like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz say this hunger for revenge is understandable. But he tells reporters the United States is taking on an even greater challenge ridding the earth of the scourge of terrorism. "We're after something more than revenge," he said. "We're after dealing with and eliminating this threat to civilization."

And that offensive is poised to begin even as the recovery efforts continue. Ships, planes and troops are already on the move in what the Pentagon is warning will be a long and difficult campaign.

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