- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2001

Dozens of white trailers dwell in the shadow of the world's largest military complex. Inside one, a half-dozen men stoop over a blueprint on a table: Wedge One and surrounding corridors of the southwest portion of the Pentagon. They stare at it for long moments, this area of the building they know so well.
They should they renovated it. Now, as they try to make sense of the 3-year-old plans, they face the grim task of doing their work all over again.
These are the men of John J. Kirlin Inc., a mechanical contractor that has worked in the shadows of the Pentagon for two years. They were packed and ready to leave by late summer. But that was before a hijacked plane carved a hole into the Pentagon September 11 and killed 125 persons they saw daily.
"It's irony at its worst," said David Rosner, project manager. "We had just finished up the project and were so proud of it. Now, we have to do it all over again."
It's emotional, he says, being in front of that part of the building where so many died. They face it every day.
Outside the trailer, bulldozers grumble, collecting dirt and debris. Workers hose the site with water trying to keep the dust down. Men in white protective suits labor on high, exposed floors of the building once offices testing for mold and noxious gases as they pick through debris. An acrid smell of stale smoke blankets the site.
It is here they have returned to, a landscape of death and destruction that must be made whole again. But the Kirlin personnel say they will have Pentagon employees back in their offices by September 11, 2002.
Before September 11, 150 tradesmen worked on the site under a plan to renovate the entire Pentagon by 2012. Many had completed their jobs and were packed up and ready to move out. Others had already had moved to other projects.
These days, more than 600 workers toil in round-the-clock rotating shifts, first assisting in recovery efforts while planning for reconstruction. Whatever it takes, they say.
They still anguish over having completed their project on time, a feat that allowed some Pentagon employees to move into the section just before it was destroyed.
"Why couldn't we have been off schedule?" asks one worker with a sad smile.
They look up every time a plane flies overhead. They grimace every time they hear the attacks described as an "incident." And still they mourn their destroyed work.
"People moved to the new space, loved it and were happy to be there," Mr. Rosner said. "We received great accolades for our work."
So now, they toil proudly, they say. It is a labor of love to combat the work of such incomprehensible hate.
Some of the men are:
Ed Handler, a plumber who had the terrible duty of cleaning clogged drains at the impact site that left water levels a foot high. "I had to do it so that firemen and other rescuers could get in," he said. "But it was creepy. I saw file cabinets, chairs and desks on top of drains we installed. I saw women's shoes. I saw a lot more than I cared to see bodies pulled out in pieces. My mom called me every day."
Mark Garraway, a project coordinator who stands outside the building and recalls the little details that remain of life before: the half-eaten donuts, the opened newspapers from September 11.
Ray Seiss of National Fire Protection, a contractor who installed the upgraded sprinkler system that saved lives when it prevented the fire from spreading farther southward. In the days after the attack, he was called to assess the damage done by fire.
Doug Hayes, a steamfitter who in the past six weeks has been working to lessen the noxious gases and mold in the air to allow workers to do their jobs. Mr. Hayes was in the doorway of the D Ring shortly after 9 a.m. that day, waiting for a colleague with insulating material, when he felt a "thud."
"Nearby doors slammed shut as a wind gust came by," he recalled. "A duct exploded. There was so much dust, I couldn't see my hand. I thought a scaffold had fallen. I realized there was fire everywhere. And people were still in the building."
Scott Jones, a project coordinator laid off from his printing job Oct. 1 because of the attacks. On Oct. 15, he joined the team. "I wanted to work here," he said. "It gives me a sense of honor, of duty."
They all say that.
"We are doing this for our country," Mr. Handler said. "Those that were here before are proud to be back to finish what we started."
There is a sense of camaraderie, they say. Anger and sadness have translated into a sense of mission.
"Washington will take care of that," Mr. Jones said of bringing the terrorists to justice. "I can't worry about that or be mad at them. It is done. Best thing to do now is to get it back up."
And that, they say, will be something to be proud of.


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