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CNN AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Look at Pentagon Over Past Year

Aired September 6, 2002 - 09:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We have spent much of this morning here in New York, focused on the historic congressional meeting in the shadow of ground zero, in lower Manhattan, which is still a gaping hole in the ground. But there was that other ground zero, the Pentagon, which less than one later has risen from the ashes. So much pride taking place there in Washington.
Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been with us all week to look at what's happened at the Pentagon over the past year. And today, she concludes her series with dramatic memories from a year ago.

Good morning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Bill.

You know, while most of America watched September 11th unfold on their television screens, I was one of those people inside the Pentagon when the plane hit, when the world as we knew it changed in an instant. A year later, I took a look at what happened then, and what has happened since that moment the Pentagon went to war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): Walking by, you might not realize you are at the other ground zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look to the right, just beyond where we have these columns, Barbara, is actually where the aircraft entered the building. So immediately to the left of those columns is where the building collapsed.

STARR: In an instant, 120 children lost a parent. Two children were orphaned, 184 people were killed, dozens injured. The Pentagon never completely shut down; as one side of the building burned, on the other side the military began planning for war.

Project Phoenix is now nearly complete at a cost of $0.5 billion and a crew of construction workers on the job 24/7.

One year after the attack, the job is so well done that Lee Evey, in charge of rebuilding, has to point out the last visible reminder, a charred piece of limestone tucked in a corner, marking the day that the world changed.

The first task was to demolish 400,000 square feet of the building. By early winter, this was the attack site, where the fourth floor was being rebuilt along the outer ring of the building. Today, new hallways, new paint and 2,000 pound blast-resistant windows.

LEE EVEY, PENTAGON RENOVATION MGR.: "We are on the E-ring on the fourth floor, looking into what we called the Phoenix Project. That is the portion that either collapsed on September 11th, or subsequently, we had to demolish and then completely rebuild. Where we are right now, on the morning of September 11th, three floors down, there was an airplane passing beneath your feet.

STARR: Memories are everywhere, a memorial to those who perished: three-star Lt. General Timothy Maude. On September 11th, he was the head of Army personnel. His office instantly obliterated. General Maude is the highest-ranking military person to die at the hands of the enemy in over half a century.

Matthew Michael Flocco: just 21, a Navy weather technician. His father, a construction worker who has been at the Pentagon for the last year, working to rebuild the place where his son was killed. And retired Master Sergeant Max Beilke was a civilian. A quarter century ago, Max Beilke was the last combat soldier to leave Vietnam, as his family watched on television.

Lee Evey likes to point out that the building itself fought back on 9-11, the roof line holding for 30 minutes before collapsing, allowing hundreds of people to escape. A building that has been home to military heroes and countless other civilian and military personnel over the decades.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For all those years, people have had this sense of commitment to the building, and maybe, in some way on September 11th, the building paid it back to them a little bit. The building took care of them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Wow. I guess back a year ago, you were inside there that day. What was the scene like? Was it frantic? Was it confused?

STARR: It was an extraordinary day. Everyone says that. But I have to tell you, everyone had a different experience at ground zero. Of course, utter devastation on the far side of the building, not that much -- where I was, it was, you could only say, very unsettled. I was out in the hallway, and in a instant, it was full of people running, and screaming and a security officer ran by yelled "get out, get out, get out, we've been hit."

In that moment, my world changed, because it was clear, we had gone to war.

HEMMER: Was it mean to the people who work there, that have this facility completed now within a year?

STARR: They are just utterly thrilled. I think for everyone who was inside of the Pentagon that day. I think for the construction workers, this is their message to Osama bin Laden. This is the return postcard more than anything. And I have to tell you, that the stories of heroism are every bit as riveting as New York. One of the things that has stuck with me the most, many, many people told us there were young Marines in building who moved to smoke-filled stairways, and stayed through the smoke, through the flames, guiding people out. People feeling if the Marines were still there, if the Marines weren't in retreat, everything would be OK.

And I want to take just a moment to thank our producer in Washington, Bill Mears (ph), a terrific CNN producer, who has pulled all of this together.

HEMMER: Good series. Thank you, Barbara. Good to have you here.

STARR: Thank you, Bill. Great to be here.

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