Her clothing is torn, her eyes are half-closed and Belmonte Tenaglia said he knows she is suffering.
"I imagine her still alive right after the attack," the 74-year-old Lansdowne sculptor said of Hope, his greenish-gold creation perched atop a bookcase in the library at Leisure World. Her name, Tenaglia said, symbolizes his hope that no one else suffers the same fate.
The life-size bust in imitation bronze -- actually colored molding plaster -- is of a young woman, representing all the office support workers who died in the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The figure is at an angle, as if thrown by the force of the impact, her hair snarled and professional attire askew. Her lips are parted, perhaps in a desperate gulp for air or a call for help.
Tenaglia, who is semi-retired from the construction business, said he made the piece because in the midst of honoring the heroic police officers and firefighters who perished in the terrorist attacks, the young office workers who arrived early to prepare for the workday were neglected.
"He felt very strongly that we had sort of forgotten them," said Bill Emley, 72, one of Tenaglia's neighbors in Leisure World's Blue Ridge building. "He's very aware of other people's needs, physical needs or spiritual needs."
On Sept. 11, 2001, Tenaglia watched television coverage at the Leisure World clubhouse before heading to a dentist's appointment in Prince George's County. From the Beltway, he saw smoke billowing from the Pentagon, where he knew his family's company had a construction crew at work.
A hurried call verified that his employees were out of danger. But the proximity of the attacks stayed with him, and he continued to think about the workers no one seemed to be mentioning.
A few days later, Tenaglia set to work molding clay on his balcony. When he was nearly finished, he drove it to his office in Prince George's, strapped in his pickup by a seat belt. At his office, he poured molding plaster over the clay to create a form, from which he produced Hope.
The bust was unveiled to the Leisure World community at a remembrance ceremony Sept. 11, 2002.
"It came as kind of a surprise," said Lou Gros Louis, a fellow Blue Ridge resident who spoke Friday at a gathering to commemorate the third anniversary of the attacks. Louis said Leisure World residents continue to be inspired by the tragic figure. "Many people come here and just look at it," said Louis, 73.
Tenaglia is a small, square man with a shock of white hair. He was born in the Italian town of Orsogna, east of Rome, in 1930 and was nicknamed "Rocco" after his father, who died when Tenaglia was just 6 months old.
At 16, Tenaglia met Mario Valentini, an impressionist sculptor 20 years his senior who became a father figure and taught him the craft even as he worked as a mason. "The arts very few times make people rich," said Tenaglia, who nevertheless found time for his creative passion between laying bricks.
Tenaglia immigrated to the United States when he was 26 and made three grand wall murals that now decorate his apartment -- of Italy, Egypt and a throng of animals -- during the lonely year he waited for his wife, Fiorella, now 69, to join him. He worked as a foreman for his cousins' construction company for more than 20 years before going out on his own with BRT Masonry LLC, which specializes in work at such military complexes as Andrews Air Force Base.
"To send kids to college, you have to do something outside the dreams," said Tenaglia, who put together a handful of statuettes over the decades. "I'm very proud of the brickwork we produced. I put a little art in it."
But when he "retired" in 2000 -- exchanging heavy labor for occasional consulting and estimating -- Tenaglia's artistic productivity skyrocketed. He made busts of three of his grandchildren and a larger-than-life statue of the fourth, as an 8-year-old aspiring ballerina. He made satirical sculptures for the Leisure World garden, portraying the Riverbend building as an ugly, old fogy who is envious of the next-door Blue Ridge complex, which is depicted as a tantalizing beauty. He is now working on a version of the 1954 West Point class crest for Emley, who is an alumnus.
"It actually looks better than the original," said Emley, who hopes that about 100 of his classmates will purchase the plaques of the West Point shield and eagle to support a class fund for the school.
Tenaglia, who works only with inexpensive materials such as molding plaster, which costs about $25 for a 100-pound bag, said he wasn't sure whether his work qualified as true art.
"When you go to bronze, you have to make sure you have a masterpiece," he said. "Most of the time, what you're doing today, you're going to take down tomorrow."
But at Leisure World, the only criticism of Hope has to do with where she was placed, tucked in the back of the library, out of the hands of children but well above eye level, since it doesn't have a proper stand.
"It should have a pedestal of its own, plus some light directing your eyes to it," said resident Mary Aton, 73, a retired law librarian whom Tenaglia has helped with her own sculpture.
"He has a read on human beings and their expressions and shows his sympathy for the women who were at risk and were killed."