Rumsfeld Praises Pentagon Construction Workers
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 5, 2002 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised construction workers and autographed hard hats today in appreciation of their round-the-clock efforts to get terrorist-damaged portions of the Pentagon ready for occupancy by Sept. 11, 2002.
"I was told you never stopped working -- what's going on?" Rumsfeld joked to the construction crew assembled on the second floor of the "Wedge 1" section.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (center) accompanied by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz (right), autographs a construction worker's hard hat at the Pentagon. The secretary praised and thanked the work crews April 5 during a barbecue celebration of the last major pouring of structural concrete needed to repair terrorist-damaged portions of the building. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The concrete workers "razzed" the secretary in kind, noting that cement was being poured a floor above them even as they were speaking. Rumsfeld attended an early afternoon "topping off" ceremony, which besides construction crews included fire and rescue workers who had assisted victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
Sheet metal forewoman Charlotte Hartman and electrician Ken Hampton said they had both worked on the original Pentagon renovation project prior to Sept. 11.
"Terrorism," Hartman emphasized, "has got to be stopped."
Hampton, in charge of electrical quality control, noted it's important to seek out and destroy global terrorists.
"The more, the better," he remarked.
Attendees were treated to a beef and pork barbecue lunch, with country music entertainment provided by members of the Marine Corps' "President's Own" Band.
Pentagon Renovation Program spokeswoman Rachel Decker said the "topping off" of structural concrete on the 3rd floor of "Wedge 1" marked the last major pouring of the "Phoenix Project." The terrorist-hijacked airliner that slammed into the Pentagon ripped a deep, horseshoe-shaped chunk from Wedges 1 and 2.
Decker noted that the project, which began Nov. 19, 2001, is three weeks ahead of schedule. She said construction crews would now complete electrical, heating and cooling, ducting, projects, and other interior work. The replacement stone facing for the outside wall, she added, will be of Indiana limestone, just like the original.
Rumsfeld, who has vowed that damage would be repaired within a year of the attack, seemed visibly pleased with the progress.
"This has been just a terrific, terrific effort by so many people," Rumsfeld emphasized. "I just want you to know that all of us appreciate it a great deal.
"We recognize what you've done from Day One, and we're just anxious to see the rest of it happen between now and 9-11. Thank you very much for everything you're doing," he added.
The assembled construction crews, fire and rescue workers from Montgomery County, Md.; and Fairfax and Arlington counties, Va., and Pentagon workers then gave Rumsfeld a hearty military "hooah!" verbal salute.
Afterward, Rumsfeld, accompanied by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, talked to construction workers and autographed their hard hats.
Wolfowitz and Pentagon Renovation Program Manager Lee Evey also praised the construction workers for their efforts.
"It is fantastic work. ... It is part of the fight in the war against terrorism," Wolfowitz remarked. "And, when this work is done before Sept. 11, we will be sending a message back to the terrorists, and thank you for doing so."
Decker noted the Phoenix Project has involved as many as 600 construction workers working around-the-clock to rebuild 400,000 square feet of building space destroyed in the attack.
The Phoenix Project's rapid progress "is pretty incredible," said Capt. Troy Lipp of Maryland's Montgomery County Task Force One, which works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in urban search and rescue missions. Lipp said his 68-member group conducted search and rescue operations along with other state, federal and local organizations at the Pentagon on Sept. 11.
Having the Pentagon repaired so rapidly after undergoing such destruction "is really a testament to the resiliency of our country," Lipp noted, adding, "It's a great symbol for us, having this building rebuilt. It means a lot to the whole country.
"People that are involved in this project should be proud of the work they've put forth here," he concluded.