Accessibility links

Turkish-American Helps Rebuild Pentagon - 2002-09-05

English Feature #7-36690 Broadcast September 9, 2002

A year ago on Wednesday, shortly after two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, another airplane hijacked by terrorists flew into the Pentagon in Washington. One hundred eighty nine people died in the Pentagon crash, and the building itself was seriously damaged. Today on New American Voices, Armagan Selcik, an architect born in Turkey, talks about his part in the process of rebuilding the destroyed section of the Pentagon.

Armagan Selcik is a vice-president of Bratti Associates, a stone contractor that was called in to replace the stone façade of the Pentagon destroyed by the terrorist attack of September 11.

“As early as October of 2001 stone was being fabricated in Indiana using the original quarry and the same stone. We were called in in February to start installing the stone. We had over four thousand pieces of limestone, about five foot by two foot six foot, roughly, and they weighed about eight, nine hundred pounds each.”

The job was expected to take six months, from late February to the end of August. Armagan Selcik says the special circumstances of this rebuilding project made the sixty or so stone installers and helpers work extra hard.

“Our guys had to work sixty hours a week, and they took pride in what they were doing, and this was one of the smoothest-run jobs, because everyone was willing to work together. Everyone volunteered to work on the job, and everybody loved being there, and also didn’t mind working the extra hours.”

Mr. Selcik says that the project required cooperation among the several companies involved in different aspects of the rebuilding process.

“We had a lot of close coordination. Two of the issues were – the backup was built as a concrete backup. The original Pentagon had a masonry backup. But for this one, because a stronger material was required, obviously, concrete was used as the backup material, so we had to coordinate very closely with the concrete subcontractor. And also the windows. There were special windows, and we coordinated very closely with the company that did them, because the opening we leave in the limestone has to be exact for the windows to fit in.”

The job was finished three months ahead of schedule, in late May. The ceremonial installation of the last stone was held on June 11th.

“Going into the Pentagon right before we took on this project, looking at what we had to do, looking at the area of the Pentagon that we had to cover with limestone – it was almost overwhelming. But once we got started with our craftsmen and our workers, it became an easy job. And we were all very proud to be part of this.”

Armagan Selcik has been working with Bratti Associates for twenty years, virtually from the beginning of his life in America. He graduated from architectural school in Ankara, Turkey, and came to the United States in 1982 on a student visa, planning to get a master’s degree in his field and then, after two-three years, return to Turkey.

“Well, I got hooked up with this stone company that I’m currently working for. I was doing some drafting while I was going to school, and the owner of the company saw some potential in me, and he helped me get my worker visa, and then my green card. I never got my master degree, but I stayed, and I enjoy what I do.”

As a professional architect, Armagan Selcik could have returned to Turkey at any time and made a career for himself there. However, he chose to stay in the United States for a number of reasons.

“The main thing is the thinking. Business approach, and, in general, thinking. Everything is streamlined here. More efficient, how can we get the job done, or how can we help each other and move on. That was the main thing.”

Another reason, says Mr. Selcik, was Americans’ acceptance of cultural diversity.

“America is a big melting pot, as you know. I see myself in the melting pot, and just blending in with the culture and the people. I just like the life here, and the life style. Everybody is respected for what they are, not for their background, usually they’re not judged, and that’s the best thing about America.”

Armagan Selcik is married to a fourth-generation Italian-American woman, and has two sons, aged six and one. He has no doubt that his sons will grow up American, but with an appreciation of their Turkish heritage.

“It’s not something that I need to teach. I mean, the things that I do with my sisters, with my Turkish friends, the way I am is part of my culture, and they see it every day, they live it every day.”

Armagan Selcik says that he does plan to teach his sons about their father’s role in Operation Phoenix, the project of reconstructing the Pentagon. For him, it was a moving, and an important, experience.

“The first time I went to the job, you stand in the area that was damaged, that is being built with concrete, and you look at the approach path of the plane, and you go through the emotions. Even now when I go back there, I stand there, and I look up – what people were thinking, you go through the whole thing. It’s very, very emotional. But then I turn around and look at the wall and I take pride in what we did.”

Next week, the widow of a Vietnamese immigrant who died in the attack on the Pentagon talks about her husband’s life and about the emotions of the past year.