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WASHINGTON, DC-Military planners continued to examine contingency plans as the Pentagon burned yesterday, set aflame when a plane crashed into one side of the occupied 3,705,793-sf government complex.

Immediately following the attack, a state of emergency was declared in the city, all federal office buildings were closed including the Pentagon, where roughly 23000 military and civilian personnel work. Security guards carrying automatic weapons were reportedly seen patrolling the White House grounds.

The attack, which is said to have taken place on the army side of the Pentagon, occurred at 9:45 a.m. yesterday. A hijacked American Airlines commercial aircraft, believed to be a 767 en route from Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles, crashed into the building, sparking a massive fire that burned throughout the day. A portion of one side of the building collapsed in the fire and a series of secondary explosions were reported in the area following the attack.

Government officials returned to the Pentagon last night for a press briefing. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon will be open for business today. Rumsfeld, whose offices reportedly are on the opposite side of the building from the crash site, said it was too early to estimate how many people were injured or killed in the attack. Published reports estimate the death toll at the Pentagon as anywhere from 100 to 500 people.

Witnesses near the Pentagon reported screaming and panic at the scene but said that the evacuation of the building was without incident.

The Pentagon, one of the world’s largest office buildings and headquarters of the Department of Defense, was completed in January 1943 following a 16-month construction period. It cost roughly $83 million to build. It has three times the square footage of the Empire State Building, 17.5 miles of corridors and is twice the size of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

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