Pentagon Phoenix Project Workers Are Heroes, Wolfowitz Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2002 -- Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz today praised construction, Sept. 11, 2002 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz today praised construction workers and others who helped to make the Pentagon whole again one year after Flight 77 slammed into the building's western wall.
Speaking for the department at the Phoenix Project worker appreciation ceremony today, Wolfowitz conveyed the secretary's thanks to the workers for a job well done. He also received an award on Rumsfeld's behalf from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation.
Project Phoenix workers, military personnel and families gather for the Worker Appreciation Ceremony at the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2002. Photo by Jim Garamone.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"This award recognizes each one of the extraordinary men and women who have rebuilt the Pentagon with some of the greatest tools there are: professionalism, passion, and pride," he said.
"This one's for you," Wolfowitz told the assembled construction workers, pointing to the award, featuring a slab of Pentagon limestone.
Some 3,000 people were involved in the effort to rebuild the damaged sections of the 60-year-old building by the one-year anniversary of the attack. The deadline was not a condition of the contract -- the workers imposed it on themselves.
At the peak of the reconstruction effort, 1,000 construction workers were on site each day. Reconstruction began Nov. 19, 2001, after 400,000 square feet of the structurally damaged sections were demolished. The project was finished ahead of schedule and under budget.
The Pentagon's construction workers "are American heroes … the heroes that we honor at this event, today," Wolfowitz said, asking the assembly to stand for applause. "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your sweat and sacrifice does great honor to the men and women we lost here a year ago and in the days since."
After moment of silence, Wolfowitz recounted the defense secretary's resolve for the Pentagon to remain functioning after the attack. This determination "not only set the tone for what was to follow, it captured what was happening here already," he said.
As "concrete crumbled and fires continued to blaze" after the attack, Wolfowitz noted, construction workers gathered Pentagon blueprints and plans to assist rescue workers. Others drove forklifts to help the FBI, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and firefighters work through debris.
Wolfowitz said Rumsfeld declared soon after the attack that business as usual would continue at the Pentagon and that it would be rebuilt.
"He made the promise, and you helped us keep it," the deputy secretary told assembled construction workers. With the Pentagon still smoldering, he said, construction workers jumped to the task with much personal sacrifice, working weekends and holidays, rain or shine.
Wolfowitz remarked that commuters passing by the Pentagon over the past year have seen that, like the mythical Phoenix bird, the building, too, has risen from its ashes to be reborn.
"They witnessed a remarkable transformation," he continued, "charred walls, once broken and burned, and became whole once more."
It was appropriate that builders adopted Flight 93 hero Todd Beamer's "Let's Roll!" battle cry, Wolfowitz pointed out. Beamer and his fellow passengers are thought to have battled terrorists who'd hijacked their plane and turned it toward Washington, D.C. The plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., killing all aboard.
"'Let's roll!' they said," Wolfowitz said, "They did. So did you. You have healed this wall, and in doing so, you have helped to heal our nation."
The builders' commitment at the Pentagon, Wolfowitz said, "honors those who died here, those who died in New York, those who died in Pennsylvania, and those who have died and are fighting for us now on the front lines around the world in this war against terrorism."
Wolfowitz praised the leadership of Pentagon Renovation Program Manager Lee Evey, who is retiring Sept. 16 after more than three decades of federal service. Evey took charge of an overall Pentagon renovation project in 1997. The first of the building's five "wedges" had just been refurbished and returned to service when terrorists crashed an airliner into it on Sept. 11, 2001.
"You inspired your workers to do their best throughout this enormous challenge," Wolfowitz said of Evey, who attended the ceremony. "And they have repaid your leadership with incredible performance."