"It's like I'm bringing somebody in and saying, 'I want to show you my office that's been destroyed,' but it hasn't been. It's exactly the same as it was on Sept. 10," said Peter M. Murphy, the top lawyer for the Marine Corps. "So it's just kind of an eerie feeling."
Murphy was one of 22 workers who returned to their offices in the rebuilt section of the Pentagon. The $500 million reconstruction project is nearly complete, although construction workers still must finish interior work on the 400,000 square feet of rebuilt office space.
Murphy was standing at his fourth-floor office window in the outer ring of the Pentagon when hijackers slammed American Airlines Flight 77 into the building below him. The attack killed 125 people in the Pentagon and 64 on the plane, including the hijackers.
Murphy was tossed across the room by the force of the impact and scrambled to get out of the burning building. One wall of his office collapsed minutes later into the hole caused by the crash.
A red and yellow Marine Corps flag in Murphy's office improbably survived, and has been flown aboard the Space Shuttle with an American flag that survived the World Trade Center attacks in New York City.
Murphy has a new Marine Corps flag in his office now, along with several photographs of the damaged Pentagon and more pictures of his wife and daughter. One of the most agonizing experiences of Sept. 11 for Murphy was not being able to contact his wife — who believed he must have died — for hours after the plane hit.
Returning to his office brought mixed emotions, Murphy said. He's proud of the way people saved each other after the attack and the quick reconstruction work that followed. Memories of that day and those who were lost are still painful. But returning gives a bit of closure, and is important to show "we won't go somewhere else with our tail between our legs."
Officials overseeing the reconstruction work say they plan to have it completed in time for a memorial service on Sept. 11 to be attended by President Bush.