- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

Cranes and earth movers began to remove layers of twisted steel and shattered concrete from the five pancaked stories of the Pentagon where a hijacked airliner slammed into it Tuesday, leaving charred ruins that will be pulverized in a colossal grinder.
"We are getting at the heart of the crash site," Arlington County Fire Chief Edward Plaugher said, adding it is impossible to find the words to describe the devastation where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building. "It's just not capable of putting in words that type of destruction, that type of death you're seeing."
Arlington County Fire Battalion Chief Benjamin Barksdale said his technical rescue crews are still shoring up the collapsed area where five floors fell into one. Heavy equipment such as cranes with wrecking balls and a tunneler worked through the day and night to strip the site of debris so more remains of the dead and evidence could be found.
The Defense Department said 85 remains have been recovered from the Pentagon, 77 of which have been transported to Delaware's Dover Air Force Base for identification. Sixty-four airliner passengers and crew members and 125 Pentagon personnel are believed to have been killed in the suicide terrorist crash.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department announced yesterday that Herbert W. Homer, a civilian employee of the Defense Contract Management Agency, was among the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the World Trade Center. He previously had been listed as unaccounted at the Pentagon.
Chief Barksdale said more than 2,000 6-foot-long timbers have been used to create 25 artificial pillars underneath the fallen floors. So far, crews have replaced all but five of those pillars so workers can get into the building's interior.
Joseph Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), toured the site for two hours yesterday.
"There are more questions than answers," Mr. Allbaugh said. "I can't describe [the destruction], I can't."
One-third of the Pentagon has been rendered useless.
Mr. Allbaugh said "time was working against" those rescuers, whom he called "American heroes."
"It will be some time before we can recover everyone. These forces behind us are working as fast as they possibly can," he said.
Some of the victims' families, arriving in seven chartered buses along Washington Boulevard, came to the site to see where their loved ones died and place flowers and mementos on a flatbed truck that will be driven inside the chain-link fence around the area.
"Most are burned beyond recognition. It will be almost impossible to identify some of them quickly," said one official, who asked not to be identified. "It was so instant, they probably did not feel any pain."
Chief Plaugher and other fire officials said it could be 10 to 12 days before the four FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Task Force crews will complete their missions. Those crews have been periodically hampered by small, intermittent fires.
"We expect to have problems like this for some time," Chief Plaugher said.
Those crews — from Fairfax and Montgomery counties, Virginia Beach and Memphis, Tenn. — have worked in 12-hour shifts, sifting through debris. Three teams of 20 Arlington County police officers also have started to work with the recovery crews and help the FBI collect evidence, Arlington County Police Chief Ed Flynn said.
Chief Flynn said security around the perimeter of the site and nearby streets has been tightened, with police in SWAT gear carrying submachine guns. They tracked down and arrested a man in his 20s who had gotten past police stationed along Columbia Pike.
The recovery at the Pentagon is much more painstaking than that at the World Trade Center because the FBI is marking hundreds of pieces of the evidence found in the rubble, but fire officials say the recovery of the deceased is the primary objective of the effort.
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III also surveyed the wreckage yesterday, saying it is "an absolute mess." Mr. Gilmore, who is a little over 6 feet tall, held his hand up to his head, then lowered it to about chest level to show how little debris in front of the building had been removed since he visited the site Tuesday.
"There is an overwhelming feeling of danger," Mr. Gilmore said.

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