91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
Workers at the Pentagon Put U.S. Safety First
By Karen Fanning

A painter puts the finishing touches on the rebuilt portion of the Pentagon. The damaged portion of the building reopened for business in August. The Pentagon continued operating at top capacity 24 hours a day, seven days during the rebuilding. (Photo: Suzanne Freeman)
At 9:38 a.m. on September 11, 2001, Private First Class Officer Frank Webb was conducting a tour of the Pentagon when terrorists struck America's military fortress.

"I felt the shock wave coming down the corridor and I heard the explosion," he recalls.

As Private Webb and his tour group rushed to evacuate the building, Pentagon press Officer Glenn Flood was scrambling to make his own escape.

"We felt the vibration and heard a rumbling sound," says Flood, a former Naval Officer who has worked at the Pentagon for 17 years. "Then the alert came about two minutes later: 'This is not a drill.' We headed down the hall, but that was where all the smoke was coming from, so we had to turn around."

Webb and Flood survived the attack. Sadly, 125 people in the building did not. For those who did escape, the grief of losing so many colleagues was hard to bear. Still, Pentagon workers refused to let the terrorists intimidate them. Just one day after the attacks, more than 15,000 employees reported to work.

As soon as the FBI released the crash site as a crime scene, a crew of 300 construction workers began to toil around the clock, hauling away debris. Since then, workers have labored tirelessly to rebuild the crash site — a $550 million job that recently completed.

In response to September 11, Pentagon officials have made sweeping reforms, beefing up security both inside and outside the building.

"Security at the Pentagon has always been tight because it is the headquarters for the military establishment of the United States," says Flood. "But we're now at a much more heightened level of security. You might see more weapons in the hallways now. The roads have been reconfigured so there's no direct line of sight for vehicles going straight to the Pentagon itself. We also rely on the municipal police to monitor the roadways outside the Pentagon."

Although Pentagon workers take comfort in increased security measures, Flood admits that the mere sight of an airplane still makes him uneasy.

"You never know when something's going to happen," he says. "When a plane goes by now, everybody looks up. You know that sound, and you just hope that that plane will continue on its way, wherever it's going."

As the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attack approaches, plans are underway to honor the victims. President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will deliver speeches, and at 9:38 a.m., ceremonies will be interrupted for a moment of silence. For Flood, the event will be a very personal occasion.

"It felt like somebody had hit my home and my family," he says about the attack. "The anniversary will be very emotional, especially since I've been here so long."

Despite their sadness, Flood and the Pentagon's other 23,000 workers are determined to move forward.

"We've recovered so fast," says Flood. "The Pentagon has bounced back 100 percent. It's open 24 hours, seven days a week. The Pentagon never sleeps."