- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2002

The charred chasm and the acrid smoke are gone now, replaced by the aroma of freshly cut wood and the staccato of hammers building a fourth floor. Soon, limestone will grace all sections of the Pentagon's facade again.
The Pentagon is back, construction officials say, stronger and safer than ever.
"There are few traces left of September 11," said Brett Eaton, communications director for the Pentagon Renovation Program. Soon it will be the Pentagon as we know it again."
It is the Phoenix Project the reconstruction of the area damaged by the attack. From ashes to concrete, a wounded building rises proudly again.
Five months ago, a plane slashed into a newly renovated section of the Pentagon and killed 189 persons. Afterward, mangled steel beams, tons of debris and smoke dressed the hole that was a section known as Wedge 1.
These days, charred concrete has been painted. Fire damage has been demolished. Four stories rise, and a fifth and last one is on the way. A dozen new blast-proof windows peek from the first floor. Limestone leans on the outer walls, an attempt to match the untouched 61-year-old facade.
Inside the former wasteland of destruction, electrical wires, heating ducts and pipes hang in limbo. Soon, drywall and ceilings will be installed and it will be transformed into the office building it once was.
It is "astounding progress," says Mr. Eaton. The project is six weeks ahead of schedule.
The plan is to have displaced employees and survivors back into the section by the one-year anniversary of September 11. All areas damaged by the attack are to be completely repaired by 2003.
In the adjacent section, Wedge 2, originally slated for demolition before the attack, renovation plans have been slowed in order to accommodate displaced employees. But since Congress recently provided a little help $300 million the schedule for already-planned renovation moved its completion date forward from 2014 to 2010.
Already 1,000 displaced employees have returned to Wedge 1. In the next few weeks, hundreds more will take their chairs in renovated offices with new carpeting, phones, ceilings and furniture.
"For the most part, they are excited to get back to some sense of normalcy," said Mr. Eaton. "Some have been working for months, two or three to a desk."
Getting back to normal has been a feverish undertaking since September 11.
These days, two tower cranes overshadow two smaller ones, and bulldozers hum in the background. Almost 1,000 builders and other workers pound panels, saw wood and pour concrete in 20-hour-a-day shifts, six days a week. Few goof off because of a heightened sense of urgency, says Mr. Eaton.
Will Colston, project manager for the Pentagon reconstruction project, has been at the Pentagon for almost four years. He says that he, like others involved in the rebuilding, feel honored to be part of the task.
"When you worked on a project this intensely, it does affect you when something like [the attack] occurs," he said. "It strikes you personally."
He wasn't there that day five months ago. The milestones, he says, are "flashes in time."
"One is the first time I saw the building from a half-mile away," he said. "I could already smell the smoke. The next is when the demolition started. I was sad even though I knew this had to happen to make way for the new. Then recently, I saw the windows and thought, 'Wow, it is really coming back.' It looks like a building now."
It looks like the Pentagon.
"It is an honor, " he says, "to put back what was once destroyed."

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