Construction workers completed the rebuilding of the outer wall of the Pentagon Tuesday. The milestone came exactly nine months after the September 11 terrorist attack that destroyed a section of the U.S. Defense Department's headquarters and left more than 180 people dead.
The final piece of limestone placed on the outer wall was a blackened stone, part of the original facade damaged when suicide terrorists flew a hijacked jetliner into the Pentagon.
Behind it, construction workers sealed a memorial capsule containing a plaque with the names of the 125 Pentagon workers killed in the attack as well as those of the 59 passengers and crew of the commandeered plane.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was the top official at the ceremony, and he hailed the speedy reconstruction effort, saying that, "It defies those who seek not to build, but to kill and to destroy."
Mr. Wolfowitz also paid tribute to the scores of workers who have labored virtually around the clock to ensure that the damaged portion of the Pentagon will be almost fully operational by the first anniversary of the September 11th attack. "You healed this wall," he said, "and in doing so you helped to heal the nation." The multi-million dollar reconstruction effort, dubbed the Phoenix project, is well ahead of schedule.
Lee Evey, Manager of the reconstruction project, says the challenge now is to complete the renovations inside the building. "We find that the tenant fit-out right now is about 70 percent complete," he said, "The information management and telecommunications is about 40 percent complete. That leads us to believe that we will be successful in completing those areas and moving people into those areas by September 11, 2002."
The Pentagon also announced Tuesday their plans for a design competition for a memorial honoring the victims of the original attack. Officials say the memorial will be built on the grounds of the Pentagon near the impact site.