WASHINGTON – In an act the deputy defense secretary said "defies those who seek ... to kill and destroy," workers on Tuesday fitted the final piece of limestone facade into the rebuilt section of the Pentagon.
The blackened stone was part of the original facade damaged during the Sept. 11 attack on the military headquarters that killed 189 people. It was engraved with the date, and behind it officials placed a bronze "dedication capsule" containing mementos of the terrorist attack.
"You've healed this wall, and in doing so, you're helping to heal this nation," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a crowd of construction workers at the site. He said the final stone "honors those who died here and defies those who seek not to build but to kill and destroy."
The ceremony marked nine months since hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the northwest side of the building. Although the facade is complete, work still remains inside the building to finish the reconstruction.
The Defense Department is not calling the canister a time capsule because it is not meant to be ever removed.
"It will be here forever, we hope," said Assistant Defense Secretary Charles S. Abell, who showed the capsule and its contents to reporters Monday.
The capsule holds a plaque with the names of the 184 victims of the Pentagon attack, as well as other mementos, including a photo of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld outside the damaged building. A book listing some 46,000 people who registered their condolences on a Pentagon Web site also is included.
Two sympathy cards made by schoolchildren are in the capsule. One of them, labeled "To the employees at the Pentagon," bears a message inside neatly printed in pencil.
"I wish you at the Pentagon good luck," the unidentified student wrote. "I'll never know how you feel, so all I can do is wish you good luck. We are all very sorry. God bless America."
A plaque noting the location of the capsule and its contents will be fixed on a wall inside the rebuilt section of the Pentagon, Abell said. The capsule itself is decorated with a star on the front and an inscription:
"On June 11, 2002, a collection of items representative of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon was placed in this capsule as a testament to the strength and resolve of the American people."