- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2001

One week after a hijacked American Airlines plane slammed into the Pentagon, emergency workers yesterday turned from rescue to recovery, while scaling back operations at the crash site.
Rescue crews reported they were making progress cutting through and removing tons of debris at the Pentagon, finally reaching the first inner ring of offices previously obscured by ash, twisted metal and concrete rubble. The removal has revealed portions of the second and third floors of the building.
"As the debris is removed, there's less room for people to work efficiently," said Arlington County Fire Chief Ed Plaugher.
Crews said yesterday it will take a week or more to finish, and operations must be scaled back to do so. They have to remove much of the rubble before retrieving the victims from American Airlines Flight 77.
Meanwhile, about 150 civilian rescue workers headed home to nearby Fairfax County and Montgomery County and were to be replaced with crews from Virginia Beach and Memphis, Tenn., within two days.
"The crew that replaces us is probably going to find some grisly things under there," said Lt. Mark D. Stone of the Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue Team. "It's going to start to hit [the departing rescue workers], the scope and scale of what happened here."
Officials said the death toll has reached 189 so far, including a woman who died of burns yesterday. Antoinette Sherman, 35, of Forest Heights was pronounced dead at Washington Hospital Center from serious burn injuries, a hospital spokesman said. She was admitted to the hospital in critical condition last Tuesday.
Eight patients from the attack remain at the hospital, five in critical condition, two in fair condition and one in serious condition. Another patient, Racquel Kelley, 32, of the District, was discharged yesterday.
Rescue workers continued to shore up the crash site yesterday. As of last night, 113 sets of remains had been recovered from the rubble, of which 18 had been identified, rescue officials said.
Hopes for finding survivors continued to dim.
"We're in it because we care," said Hank Blackwell, a member of the Urban Search and Rescue Task Force that arrived from New Mexico early yesterday morning. "When we respond to a tragedy and can't save someone, it's very difficult. But we're still working just as hard at recovery because hopefully that brings closure to the families of the people who were lost at the Pentagon."
Security remained tight at the Pentagon, where employees had to go through several checkpoints set up throughout the building. Air Force Capt. Joe Della Vedova said yesterday employees have to wait at least 10 minutes in line at a checkpoint before they can get into their offices.
"It's very tight and very secure, which is a good thing," Capt. Della Vedova said. "Security is usually tight at the Pentagon, and it's extra tight now."
Pentagon officials also have asked employees to ride the Metro to get to work, or park their cars at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and take the Metro from there. Once they get to the Pentagon they must now enter the building from the outside, instead of from underground, Capt. Della Vedova said.
Meanwhile, the region continued to get back to business. Traffic woes continued, slightly eased by the opening of Columbia Pike at Interstate 395. Synagogues hosted Jewish New Year services while area Muslims continued to plead for tolerance and pledge their loyalty to the United States.
Federal officials searched small flight schools around the region for more links to the terrorist plot. Virginia officials called for increased security on airplanes and the reopening of Reagan National Airport.
Sen. George F. Allen said the Commerce Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow to discuss making airplane cockpits non-accessible and installing cameras in the passenger portion of the aircraft.
"Never again should a plane be hijacked and used as a guided missile," said Mr. Allen, a Virginia Republican.
The District has been criticized for the slow response after the attack on the Pentagon. Many residents were not sure if schools were closing, or if businesses and roads within the city were being shut down. D.C. officials defended their handling of the situation but said terrorist emergency plans scheduled for next spring are being expedited..
"We are now looking at how we can best prepare for any kind of incident," said Tony Bullock, spokesman for D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams. "Nobody is really prepared for something like this."
Mr. Bullock said city officials are working with all city agencies and the federal government to create a more effective plan against terrorist attacks, including more effective communication among top city officials. Satellite phones were distributed this week.
Another element to be examined is an improved traffic plan. Last Tuesday, many southbound routes, including the 14th Street Bridge, were closed, creating massive gridlock. Officials said the city needs to better inform people of alternative routes. Mr. Bullock said yesterday an effective plan "will take commitment, planning and drilling."
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, speaking on radio station WTOP 1500 AM yesterday, said there's no plan for a 757 crashing into a building, so there will be some confusion during a major event like that. The chief said he called his officers back in the moment after the second plane hit the World Trade Center in New York. He also said the D.C. command center was up and running before the plane crashed into the Pentagon.
While families and friends continue to pray for hospitalized victims and for miraculous rescues, others continue holding memorial services for those who died. Yesterday, St. Matthew's Cathedral in the District overflowed with the friends and relatives of co-pilot David Charlebois, 39, a D.C. resident who was onboard American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon.
About 1,000 people, including several hundred American Airlines pilots and flight attendants, packed the church Mr. Charlebois attended, to celebrate his life and to comfort each other.
"He was a very sociable person who loved being surrounded by people," said Tom Hayes, a friend. "The only time he lost patience was when dealing with bigotry, ignorance or hatred."
This article is based in part on wire service reports

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