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Work being done to shore up Pentagon

Copyright © 2002 AP Online Print Story Email Story Save to your PDA with AvantGo

Special Report: America Under Attack

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (September 14, 2001 4:18 p.m. EDT) - Rescuers struggled Friday to shore up the collapsed section of the Pentagon while military leaders inside the Defense Department's headquarters tried to boost spirits.

Recovered from the hijacked plane that slammed into the building Tuesday were the damaged voice recorder and the charred flight data recorder. They were sent to the FBI, and officials were hopeful the two "black boxes" would provide clues about the final moments of American Airlines Flight 77.

"You feel grieving for the individual in there, the soldier who has fallen," said Sgt. Brock Bowman of Olympia, Wash., helping put bodies into bags as rescue workers retrieved them from the rubble. "You also feel some anger, and this is justified."

Inside, at a prayer service, men and women wiped away tears as they sang "God Bless America."

"My heart pains for you and I pray that God will comfort you," Army Maj. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp Jr. told them.

Van Antwerp, assistant chief of staff for installation management, said that his secretary and administrative assistance were killed. He was at a meeting outside the Pentagon on Tuesday when the plane attacked the five-sided building.

"I am experiencing some of the same emotions that many of you are," he told 250 people in an auditorium and an overflow crowd watching from a television hallway. From a window, rescue cranes could be seen stretched skyward over a roof section scattered with debris.

In a nearby hallway, workers wearing paper surgical masks washed soot from the walls and floors.

"It makes you realize your own mortality," said one rescuer, Sgt. John Trotter, 21, of San Antonio.

Trotter and Bowman are members of the Army's Old Guard of the Military District of Washington. The unit normally performs ceremonial duties, including at the White House and Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

On Friday, they were putting remains into bags and onto refrigerator trucks.

Government authorities said 190 people - a combination of military and civilian employees on the ground and the passengers in the plane - were believed to have died.

Search and rescue teams continued to work to stabilize the damaged section of the Pentagon because the building was still shifting, said Jerry Crawford, leader of an urban search and rescue team from Memphis, Tenn.

Officials said recovery efforts were complicated by a brief but heavy rain Friday.

Crawford also said officials were worried about classified material and intelligence information that is strewn throughout the rubble. He said no military intelligence officials have been allowed into the area.

"We have the FBI with us and nobody is touching anything they're not supposed to touch," Crawford said. He said that when rescue workers "see something marked secret or sensitive, we leave it alone."

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