Phoenix ... Rising From the Ashes
The events of September 11, 2001 will long be etched in our minds, hearts and lives. The horror and heroism of that day have touched us all. Through that tragedy, we have become closer both as citizens and as a nation. I marvel at how much easier it is for total strangers to reach out and make a connection. A new spirit of patriotism has exploded in America and none is more evident than what has happened at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. For those of you who have not been watching closely, a remarkable feat has been taking place unlike what we have ever witnessed before. The reconstruction of the Pentagon, code named "The Phoenix Project", is being completed at a remarkable pace. What would have normally taken two years to complete, with piles of government red tape, has evolved into a monumental task to finish the project by September 11, 2002. Just one year after the attack, wreckage cleared, material ordered, plans developed and military personnel moved into the new offices and functioning...a clear sign of American perseverance and spirit.
This month's feature is an awe-inspiring story of the unbelievable work that has taken place at the Pentagon. Roy Swindal of Masonry Arts in Bessemer, AL, an MCAA Board member, took MCAA Executive Director, Mike Adelizzi and Masonry magazine Editor, Tom Inglesby on a tour of the Phoenix Project. It was evident from the start that only the spirit, ingenuity and determination of those American heroes working on the Phoenix Project could bring it in on time to ensure success.
Masonry Arts had been working on a major renovation project at the Pentagon prior to the attack on September 11th. Imagine what two of their employees experienced as they were heading back to the Pentagon with supplies just two blocks away when the plane hit in nearly the same spot they had been working. Imagine just days after the attack at 2 a.m., as fires still raged and the magnitude of what had happened began to set-in, Pentagon officials in charge of rebuilding the destroyed section, gave instructions to start rebuilding. Imagine no work order, no contract, no plan, just get it done. We will deal with the contracts later. Imagine removing destroyed blackened stone, measuring and numbering the pieces, ordering new stone to be cut to match the old stone. Moving equipment, materials and personnel, working literally on top of other trades, struggling to get their operations established...all working at a feverish pace. Imagine all this taking place on the word of a Pentagon official who said, "I'll take care of everything". Imagine completing a section of your project and then being given the plans for the work after it was completed, having the faith that you did it correctly and that someone would back your company.
According to Roy Swindal, the spirit of patriotism and a desire to "do something" guided this project from the onset. Unlike the World Trade Towers, something could be done at the Pentagon. On the construction site there is a Time Clock, much like you would see at a high school football game, which ticks off the seconds, minutes, hours and days until September 11, 2002. A constant reminder of the date that all must be completed. Above the clock, the words, "Lets Roll" inspire the crews. According to Roy, this is a constant reminder to all of what happened and the unparalleled accomplishment of what can be done when Americans are inspired to act.
Masonry has played a major role in the Phoenix Project. From the stonework being done by Masonry Arts to the concrete masonry work being done by J. D. Long, another MCAA member, our industry was well represented. We have much to be proud of today. And when you watch the special ceremonies planned for September 11, 2002 on television, take pride in knowing masonry played a key role in the restoration of our Pentagon.
About the Author
William McConnell is the owner of Architectural Paving & Stone, Inc. He has served as President of the Mason Contractors Association of America and on the Board of Trustees for the International Masonry Institute. McConnell was a recipient of the 2005 C. DeWitt Brown Leadman Award.