Remembering Sept 11th 2001, The Pentagon and World Trade Center Attack (updated 9-11-2015-New Pictures)
WORD TRADE CENTER ON 9/11/201
WORLD TRADE CENTER COMPLEX 9/21/2013
The Pentagon Before 9/11/2001
Original Penaton Design
1945 Road Network Around the Pentagon
Why Am I Remembering Now?
BECAUSE OF THE CURRENT CONTROVERSY over the latest TSA pat-down procedures. Specifically, the piece on the flight attendant who felt humiliated and degraded by having to show her breast prosthesis she wore as a result of surviving breast cancer. I feel horrible for this lady and am very sympathetic for her plight, but, that is the world we live in now. This is where not winning the war on terrorism has left us. (It may turn out that the TSA overstepped their bounds by having her produce the prosthetic, they apparently are not allowed to do that. They may feel the prosthetic but not have it removed.)
In pondering this story about the flight attendant, I began thinking back to what started it all, the terrorist attack on America on September 11, 2001.
IN 1988, I ARRIVED IN Washington DC, actually Arlington, VA, to start work for an office with the Department of the Air Force at the Pentagon. At that point in time, my office was located just South of the Pentagon. Over the course of the next few years, I moved in and out of the Pentagon, finally to an office in Crystal City which is a little South-SouthEast. It was good exercise walking back and forth.
The morning of September 11, 2001, I was driving to my office before catching a flight to Boston, MA where I was going to deliver a talk at a conference. It was a beautiful, clear blue morning. Shortly after 8:46 AM, just as I was pulling into the underground parking, the news flashed across the radio that the North tower of the World Trade Center towers had been struck by an airplane. I pulled over and stopped to listen; thunderstruck!
Of course there was a lot of speculation going on with the newscasters as they were trying to get information. A terrorist attack flashed across my mind but I quickly discounted it as I considered how a commercial airplane, what kind wasn't known yet, could "accidentally" run into on of the WTC towers. Improbable yes, but a terrorist attack was more improbably in my mind ... until 9:03 AM when the news of the second crash broke. Now there was no doubt. There also wasn't any doubt about whether or not I was going to Boston that day; it wasn't going to happen.
I drove on down into the garage, parked, and went upstairs to break the news to my co-workers, if they hadn't heard already; they hadn't.
Satallite View of Area Around the Pentagon
Our First Impression
When I reached my office on the fourth floor of the Crystal Gateway North, I found the normal buzz going on. Nobody was yet aware that their lives were going to change forever. I tracked down Debbie, the division chief responsible for office operations to let her know what was happening. She put out the word to the other division chiefs. The few radios that were around were turned to the news and we moved a TV to our conference room. Work, of course, stopped as people started quietly discussing and guessing what was happening.
A group of us, maybe 15, were around the TV watching coverage of what was happening to the WTC. It wasn't long though before we started thinking closer to home and I finally voiced what was on all of our minds; was the Pentagon next? At 9:37 we felt, more than heard the answer. The impact of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Sourhwestwest face of the Pentagon was so powerful it literally shook the building we were in; it made the windows rattle. I was sitting on a table and felt the rumble throughout my body; it was so eerie. Bryan Jack, an acquaintance I made from my time career broadening with the Office of the Secretary of Defense was on Flight 77.
[If you look at the map, the distance from A (my office) to the B (the Pentagon) is between 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile, depending on which path you walk. (The attack happened near the '27' to the left of the B).
Debbie ran to her office and then yelled for us to come. What we saw, as we crowed around her window was something like the picture above. We didn't see as clear a view of the Pentagon itself, there is a raised freeway in the way, but the horrible black smoke rising starkly outlined by the clear blue sky was so visible we were all stunned. The contrast made knowledge of what we knew had happened all the more unbelievable!
I could feel reality sinking in to the office listening to soft talking and occasional low sobbing. A few people tried calling over to our main office in the Pentagon to see if everyone was OK. We couldn't get through right away but they we found out they were. Their offices are more on the East side of the building, more or less opposite of the point of impact. A few other people wandered downstairs to watch from outside and others started to try to get to the Pentagon itself. I don't know if they were successful. The rest of us went back to the conference room and the TV to find out more of what was happening. We had no idea how much worse it was going to get.
At 9:59 AM, a chorus of gasps and "Oh My Gods" coursed through the room as we watched the South World Trade Center collapse on itself; then dead silence. I was numb, heartbroken, helpless, furious all at the same time. Although we wouldn't know it for a while yet, four minutes later at, 10:03 AM, because of the heroic, sacrificial struggle by the passengers of United Flight 93, the White House or Congress was saved from a similar fate that just happened to the Pentagon. Just another 25 minutes later we watched the second tower collapse. I wanted to kill the bad guys now and it didn't make much difference which ones they were.
One can't say the office was chaotic, everything was moving too slowly for that, but for sure, nothing was happing with much of a purpose. We had lost contact with our HQ in the Pentagon and we had too many bosses running, well wandering, around for any one of them to take real charge. But, nevertheless, things were starting to congeal a bit as people started recovering from the shock. We knew nothing more was going to happen as all of the planes had been grounded in the Nation and all traffic of any kind had been stopped anywhere in the vicinity of the Pentagon and Washington DC itself.
Sometime around 11 AM, I went back to the windows to look toward the Pentagon, or as we called it, the Building. When I did I was struck by the strangest, most sorrowful sight I think I have ever seen. What wind there was now came out of the North so the smoke from the fire was a huge, gray pall that blotted out much of the sky from the Pentagon South. The grayness extended to the ground it seemed but wasn't actually smoke. As I look out, I can see Jefferson Davis Hwy that leads South from the Pentagon. Although all traffic had been stopped, the highway wasn't empty. There were scores of people slowly walking Southward in the middle of the road. I don't know where they were going; I don't know if they knew. For those of you old enough to remember the 1983 TV movie called The Day After, there was a similar scene in it where the only difference is in the movie, nuclear snow had started to fall. This memory immediately flashed across my mind and still does today. I almost cried then.
Around noon, somebody made the decision to let us go home. But, in a decision most of us hated then but was probably one of his better decisions, Secratery of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordered us back to work the next day. It took about four hours to make what is normally an hour drive to get home and to make ready to face what will become a completely new world.
This story goes through my mind now when I here the controversy going on regarding enhanced pat downs and full-body imaging. I just cannot understand why it is people do not get that there are large groups of fanatical terrorists who are dedicating their lives to killing us. President Clinton and President Bush were heaped with criticism for missing the tell-tale signals of the impending attacks.
What clearer signals do these self-righteous complainers need that there are people who will put on explosive shoes and shorts and sooner or later bras to blow us up. Why is it that they want us to wait until one of these madmen or madwomen actually board a plane from an American airport and blow it up before they see the light? I just don't get it!
There is some legitimate complaint that there are better techniques than what we are using; dogs for example. That maybe so. If there are, then we should start using those. But, we should stop using what we currently have until better methods become available. That is just plain stupid and dangerous.
There is no doubt in my mind that if those who feel put upon by being scanned or patted win this fight, then somebody else will be writing a hub like mine about the next successful terrorist attack that was executed within the borders of the United States.
New Release from the U.S. Mint in Honor of the 10th Anniverasary
I just heard a little update on CNN's Anderson Cooper's 360. It about footnote 208 from the 9/11 report which reported an interview with the Secret Service agent in charge of protecting the White House airspace, Nelson Garabito; it records his experience about staying in the White House while the rest of the White House staff was being evacuated as Flight 77 was approaching Washington, D.C.
This is the very first time that I knew any government agency was reacting prior to Flight 77 impacting the Pentagon!
The CNN piece is an interview with agent Garabito and reveals he was on the phone with the FAA and was tracking the two flights that had turned around and were heading back to D.C.; once whose passengers retook control enough to prevent further destruction to our capital but bravely died in the attempt in a field in Pennsylvania. The other slammed in to the side of the Pentagon. Garabito described tracking Flight 77 from 30 minutes out, then 15 mininutes, then 5 minutes, now knowing the CIA was not the target; now 30 seconds and still not knowing if the White House, and therefore, himself, was the target; he braced for impact; it didn't happen/
Unbeknownst to me, Agent Garabito was bracing for impact 2.3 miles away from where I was sitting, waiting to die for his country; kind of sobering isn't it. This is the first time I have ever contemplated that and it is setting me back on my heals as I am writing about it.
Fortunately, I doubt that agent Garabito felt the impact I felt, a deep rumble, really, which was the sound emanating from the Pentagon from where Flight 77 met the side of the Pentagon and all of those people perished and arriving at my building, a mere 1/2 mile away; as I think I said earlier, it literally shook us while we watched the Towers burn.
Memories to a dedicated civil servant, a good man, a friend who, along with 63 other passengers and crew, never made it to Los Angeles, CA aboard Flight 77 the morning of September 11, 2001, Mr. Bryan Jack.
PENTAGON MEMORIALClick thumbnail to view full-size
UPDATE MAY 26, 2013
THIS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, I visited the Pentagon Memorial for those who fell when American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Southwest side, between the 3-4 corridor entrance and the 5-6 entrance, of the Pentagon for the very first time; I had retired and moved down to Florida shortly before it opened. To say the least, it was very poignant, stand amongst those benches, one of them dedicated to Bryan Jack, who was aboard the plane, looking up at the spot on the face of the E-ring which had collapsed and I had spied a computer still sitting on its desk on the 5th floor, 12 years earlier; you can just make it out in one of the pictures earlier in the hub.
UPDATE SEPTEMBER 20, 2013Click thumbnail to view full-size
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September 11, 2001, is not only another day that will live in infamy but is very personal to me as well; I lost a friend on the plane that hit the Pentagon; I felt the plane hit the Pentagon from my perch on a table in a nearby building watching the
© 2010 Scott Belford