Pentagon renovations helped blunt blast

by Gerry Gilmore

WASHINGTON Ongoing Pentagon renovations include designs for force protection that saved military and civilian lives after the hijacked commercial airliner smashed into the building Sept. 11, a Defense Department official said.

The terrorist assault "happened to hit an area that we had built so sturdily," Pentagon renovation program manager Lee Evey said to reporters Sept. 15. In addition to saving lives, the renovations helped to keep more of the building intact.

"It could have been much, much worse," he said. The airliner crashed low and diagonally into the Pentagon�s outside E Ring limestone wall, Evey explained. The plane first hit a recently renovated wedge section near the heliport on the west side of the building before passing into an unrenovated area, he said.

Floor-to-floor and interconnected vertical steel beams, sturdier windows and Kevlar armor panels used in the revamped exterior wall helped slow down the plane and mitigate effects of the explosion as the plane crashed through the Pentagon, Evey noted.

The Pentagon consists of five concentric five-sided buildings that ring a park-like central courtyard. The buildings are named A Ring to E Ring from the inside out.

Evey said the hijacked aircraft slammed through the E, D and C rings before coming to rest in an open-air service passageway separating the C and B rings.

An initial $145 million construction contract to start repairs to the damaged sections was awarded Sept. 14, Evey said. Total cost of repairs to the damaged sections of the building, he said, "would cost hundreds of millions of dollars."

The contract also covers renovations on remaining portions of the building and has a potential value of up to $758 million. All renovations are to be completed by 2012.

Meanwhile, fire and rescue operations continue. Rebuilding, Evey concluded, will not start until the search for victims and the removal of debris is complete.

Mr. Gilmore writes for American Forces Press Service.

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