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Black boxes from hijacked plane found at Pentagon
WASHINGTON -- Searchers today found the flight data and cockpit voice recorders from the hijacked plane that flew into the Pentagon and exploded, Department of Defense officials said.
The two "black boxes," crucial to uncovering details about the doomed flight's last moments, were recovered at about 4 a.m., said Army Lt. Col. George Rhynedance, a Pentagon spokesman.
Rhynedance said the recorders were in the possession of the FBI, and that officials from the National Transportation Safety Board were providing technical assistance in reading any data they contain.
Dick Bridges, deputy manager for Arlington County, Va., said the voice recorder was damaged on the outside and the flight data recorder was charred. But he said the FBI still was confident the data can be recovered from both.
Bridges said the recorders were found "right where the plane came into the building."
Earlier, a fire that flared in the debris had set back search efforts following the crash of American Airlines Flight 77. Government authorities said 190 people -- a combination of military and civilian employees on the ground and the passengers in the plane -- were believed to have died.
Rescuers worked to stabilize unsteady parts of the still-shaking building, said Jerry Crawford, leader of a Memphis, Tenn., search team.
The instability prevented Pentagon intelligence workers from trying to gather classified papers and other information strewn throughout the rubble.
"We have the FBI with us and nobody is touching anything they're not supposed to touch," Crawford said. He said that when rescue workers "see something marked secret or sensitive, we leave it alone."
A flare-up late Thursday sent black smoke billowing hundreds of feet into the air over Washington, but firefighters put out the blaze within 20 minutes.
Human remains pulled from the Pentagon were being taken to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be identified. The first two helicopters carrying remains arrived at the base Thursday afternoon.
During a Pentagon service Friday morning, men and women wiped tears from their cheeks as they sang "God Bless America."
A women in her camouflaged field uniform sang hymns and another played the piano. A civilian worker wore a tie that looked like the American flag, while another simply pinned a flag to her blouse.
Army Maj. Gen. Robert Van Antwerp Jr. sat with a Bible on his lap until it was his turn to speak.
"My heart pains for you and I pray that God will comfort you," Van Antwerp, assistant chief of staff for installation management, told an auditorium packed with some 250 people in the first of three services planned Friday.
Van Antwerp said his secretary and administrative assistant were killed in the attack.
"I am experiencing some of the same emotions that many of you are," he said.
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