for National Geographic News
From the outside, the nerve center of the U.S. military looks as complete and impenetrable today as it did on September 10, 2001the day before terrorist attacks wreaked devastation and claimed the lives of 125 Pentagon workers along with 59 passengers and crew members of Flight 77.
The massive pentagonal building's transformation is more than skin-deep.
Badly damaged offices in a 400,000-square-foot (37,000-square-meter) area of the C, D, and E outer rings were reconstructed in improbably rapid time thanks to heroic efforts by the construction crews, who met a self-imposed deadline for completing the project by the first anniversary of the attacks.
The construction effort was dubbed the Phoenix Project, inspired by the mythical bird that represents rebirth and immortality.
What rose from the ashes of the attack was not only a refurbished building but a remarkable spirit of teamwork, dedication, and duty that enabled the crews to achieve their goal.
The workers not only met their deadline, but exceeded it. The project was completed by August 15 and some 3,000 Pentagon employees began moving back into the reconstructed offices.
"We have the entire E-wing operational," said Phoenix Project spokesman Brett Eaton.
Displayed proudly on a prominent sign at the work site was the phrase that the workers involved in the Phoenix Project adopted as their motto, "Let's Roll." The slogan echoes the last recorded words of Todd Beamer, a passenger on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania as those aboard battled the terrorist hijackers high above the ground.
Many people had deemed the plan to complete the Pentagon reconstruction within a year as too ambitious. Yet Walker Lee Evey, program manager of the Pentagon renovation, said the deadline came from the construction workers themselves.
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