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Marines return to Pentagon offices hit 9/11

Crews move furniture into reconstructed Pentagon offices Thursday.
Crews move furniture into reconstructed Pentagon offices Thursday.  

From Mike Mount

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Almost a year after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the side of the Pentagon, tenants of offices destroyed in the building's outer ring moved back in Thursday.

Pentagon workers helped the general counsel of the Marines and the Marine aviation headquarters return to what is called the Phoenix Project, part of the Pentagon that has risen from the ashes after the hijacked plane struck it September 11.

That portion of the Pentagon was so damaged by the impact of the plane and the subsequent that fire it had to be leveled and rebuilt from the ground up.

On Thursday, the outer ring, or E-ring, of the rebuilt section opened for the Marines. Others will move back into the area over the coming days. Reconstruction of the rest of the destroyed section will conclude by winter, officials said.

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The smell of new paint and the bustle of workers Thursday was a stark contrast to the acrid black smoke and chaos of September 11.

The chief of the general counsel's office was sitting at his desk when the attack occurred, knocking him to the ground. Remarkably, no one in that office was seriously injured.

"Several minutes after the impact the building collapsed, breaking our office in half," said Peter Murphy, counsel for the commandant of the Marine Corps, pointing to a wall that fell into the breach that day.

Murphy was on hand Thursday, showing curious reporters the new offices.

"The Marine flag by my desk was left standing after the building collapsed with nothing more than a little soot," he said. "It was amazing seeing it still standing in the wreckage."

One segment of the Pentagon's outer ring had to be rebuilt from the ground up.
One segment of the Pentagon's outer ring had to be rebuilt from the ground up.  

That flag was recovered, becoming a symbol of strength for the Marines. It has journeyed into orbit on the space shuttle, and NASA will return it to the Marines this month.

Murphy said he was happy to be able to return but couldn't help commenting, "I liked my old office. I was very comfortable there, and then this happened."




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