Pentagon personnel mourn fallen comrades, begin rebuilding

Hundreds of Defense Department civilians, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines strode through soot-filled hallways into a fifth-floor auditorium at the Pentagon Friday to pray for the wisdom of their leaders and to honor fallen comrades.

The emotional, standing-room only crowds at three ecumenical religious services and a Catholic mass three days after a devastating terrorist attack were a palpable sign of the grief that gripped the Pentagon this week. Approximately 190 people are presumed dead as a result of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon Tuesday.

That number includes 126 military, civilian and contractor employees who were in the Pentagon and the 64 passengers on hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the building, destroying portions of its outermost ring.

Defense officials compiled a list of personnel that are not accounted for from Pentagon rosters. The missing are presumed dead, and their families have been notified. Army Secretary Thomas White said, "The nation grieves with all of us in this darkest hour." The Army suffered the heaviest losses among the military services, with 77 believed dead.

The following is the breakdown of those unaccounted for since Tuesday's attack:

  • Army: 21 military, 47 civilian, 6 contractor
  • Navy: 33 military, 5 civilian, 4 contractor
  • Defense agencies: 9 civilian (The original estimate was 10. Defense revised its estimate because it had inadvertently included a Defense employee listed as a passenger on the American Airlines 757 that crashed into the building.)
The area hardest hit was home to the Army's personnel policy staff and administrative staff support to the Army and Defense secretaries. Also hit were some Army operations offices. Despite the losses, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki said, "The Army is strong. It is ready. And we will keep faith with our fallen comrades."

Shinseki and other senior officials visited many of the dozens of injured employees at area hospitals where they are being treated. "I will tell you, there are remarkable stories there of great heroism. The quality of our workforce is remarkable and continues to bolster the Army."

Military personnel have always understood their mission, Shinseki said, "but this has put things in perspective."

A 'Big Hit'

Defense Department officials are still working to determine the extent of the damage to the Pentagon itself and to arrange alternative work sites for offices now off-limits due to structural, fire or water damage.

John Irby, the Pentagon's director of operations and maintenance, said about two-thirds of the Pentagon is up and running normally, and he expects they will soon extend operations further, as some of the building's less-serious maintenance problems are addressed, such as water-logged carpeting.

The water is so deep in places, "there are some offices you'd need boots to walk around in," he said. Irby estimated it would take several years to completely restore the Pentagon. "We took a big hit," he said, estimating it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to repair the building to its previous state. "A lot depends on congressional funding. We certainly don't have the funds to deal with that, and it would take legislative action to make that available to us."

Among Irby's concerns is maintaining air quality in the building. Large amounts of asbestos, carbon monoxide and other airborne contaminants could pose serious problems.

"We've changed the air filters. They were obviously very sooty. And our air handlers, old as they might be, decrepit as they might be, they're still working--to 1942 standards, perhaps, but they're still working."

Maintenance employees have been able to optimize the air-intake system to provide fresh air in those offices open to employees. "We'll keep watching this. We've sampled the material that our air filters have collected and found it to be within the acceptable limits," he said.

Also of concern is protecting classified information in the damaged areas. Maj. Gen. James Jackson, commanding general of the Military District of Washington, said military personnel are moving into the damaged areas as soon as the FBI clears them, to begin collecting documents and securing computers. "We have retrieved some computers and we're working with the fire department to get some additional ones," he said, adding that the site is secure.

The damage to the Pentagon was contained in large part by the heroic action of maintenance workers who stayed in the building while it was being evacuated, said Irby. By shutting down the water and electrical systems in a measured way, employees prevented major mechanical system damage.

"The Pentagon is an amazing building. You develop a warmth and a respect for its capability to respond to an emergency, and we're finding that it got us through this problem," Irby said.

The Mission Continues

Outside the Pentagon, military forces around the world continued to operate in a high state of alert. President Bush approved an order to call up as many as 50,000 Guard and Reserve personnel to active duty. The services already have identified the need for 35,000 Guardsmen and Reservists to provide security, intelligence support, transportation, air defense and medical support.

In a grim reminder of what lies ahead in New York, hundreds of reservists who work in mortuary services are expected to be deployed there.

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