Thousands of curious onlookers streamed toward the Pentagon Saturday to cry, pray and take pictures as recovery workers pushed further into the impact zone, where they were finding many bodies and human remains.
Among those drawn to the scene were families of people feared dead from Tuesday's crash. Five busloads of relatives were brought to a rise overlooking the devastation. Some wept and carried flowers.
One group of seven, including a man in a Navy uniform and three elderly women, were taken in closer, past the police checkpoints, and could be seen weeping as they walked slowly toward the Pentagon.
Four days after American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and flown into the building, workers completed shoring up the crumbled layers of concrete so it would be safe for them to start exploring the core of the ruins.
Some did not want to draw verbal pictures of what they had seen.
"I cannot describe it for you," said Edward Plaugher, Arlington County fire chief. "For the victims' families, I don't want to go into detail. It would just be too painful for them."
Even as workers continued the somber task of sending remains to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for identification, the Pentagon announced that it had awarded a contract to rebuild the damaged part of the building. Initially pegged at $145 million, the cost will ultimately run into hundreds of millions of dollars, they predicted.
Meanwhile, investigators continued to search the Washington area for information about the hijackers of the four planes that crashed Tuesday. Agents have contacted at least one local flight school to review records, have checked computer sign-in sheets at a Fairfax County, Va., public library and have interviewed hotel officials around Dulles International Airport.
Around the Pentagon, police tightened security to deter tourists from taking unauthorized photographs of what Arlington County Police Chief Edward Flynn called "the gaping hole at the heart of the defense establishment." He pleaded with the public to stay away.
"It's not useful for you to come see for yourself," Flynn said to would-be gawkers. "If you're not here to give blood or give food, then give us the benefit of the doubt and watch the progress on TV."
From a hill on the lawn of the Navy Annex, thousands of onlookers could look down on the dead, both those buried beneath rows of white gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery and those who lay buried under the twisted wreckage of the Pentagon.
They came to plant flags and flowers in the ground and attach posters of remembrance to the gates of the cemetery. "We will never forget your sacrifice," someone had written on one.