Pentagon Wears New Face at Dedication Capsule Ceremony
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2002 If the Pentagon was a person, it might just be smiling right now as it wears a spanking new coat of bright limestone across its western wall.
A terrorist-hijacked airliner slammed into that wall nine months ago, killing 184 people. Today, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz participated in a Pentagon ceremony to install a special dedication capsule into that once ruined west wall.
Wolfowitz said local commuters passing by the Pentagon have "witnessed a truly remarkable transformation" since the terrorist attack.
"Today, we'll finish one important part of that remarkable transformation," he continued, "We will restore to its rightful place a block of Indiana limestone that builders first placed here six decades ago."
A discolored block of stone taken from the ruins of the west wall after the attack was used to cap the niche where the dedication capsule would be placed. The stone is inscribed with the date of the attack. Pentagon renovation program manager Walker Lee Evey, with Wolfowitz at his side, placed the capsule into the niche. Then, with the help of construction workers, the capstone was inserted into the opening.
The capsule contains items such as a signed photograph of President Bush with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld standing outside the Pentagon, handmade cards and letters of condolences from school children, medallions from Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, Arlington County firefighter and police patches, a Defense Protective Services patch, a plaque listing the 184 victims, and more.
Items to be placed inside the capsule were displayed to the news media yesterday at a Pentagon briefing hosted by Charles S. Abell, assistant secretary of defense for force management policy.
The dedication capsule, Abell said, "is our way of remembering and memorializing the victims and the events of Sept. 11 and to recognize the good works of the many dedicated people on the construction crews who've helped us reconstruct the Pentagon so quickly and so well."
The capsule isn't meant to be opened like a time capsule, he said. "We don't intend to dig this out at any specific date in the future and have it available for historians and the curious," he added. "We just expect it to be there to commemorate the victims and the rebuilding effort and the war on terrorism."
Although the capstone's "charred face speaks of walls once broken and burning," Wolfowitz remarked, its darkened stone will serve as both a reminder of the attack and of hope for the future. He then read aloud a letter from a California schoolgirl named Amanda:
"'Dear Pentagon, I believe we can all pull together and show what America means. To me, following the attacks last September, America means wisdom, strength, endurance and freedom.'"
"Amanda, you've got it exactly right," Wolfowitz said to the audience, noting that the qualities outlined in the girl's letter "do define America."
He praised the construction workers, noting they have worked hard "armed with hammers and saws" to reconstruct the damaged Pentagon.
"With your hearts and hands you have rebuilt this symbol of American values and strength, stone-by-stone and we thank you," he added.
Wolfowitz noted that the Pentagon reconstruction crew, in adopting the battle cry, "Let's Roll," honors Sept. 11 hero Todd Beamer. A passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, Beamer said to fellow passengers, "Let's Roll!" before rushing their hijackers. The plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field killing all aboard. Beamer and his fellow passengers have been credited with sacrificing their lives to save others.
The Pentagon reconstruction workers have "healed this wall, and in doing so, you are helping to heal our nation," Wolfowitz said.
The 184 men and women who died at the Pentagon were patriots, he noted, representing values alien to the terrorists.
Quoting Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz said: "'Those Americans died because of how they lived, as free men and women, proud of their freedom, proud of their country, and proud of their country's cause, the cause of human freedom.'"