First up is Tony, formerly of The Confluence, who we are in process of naming an ombudsman of the blog. Since he has a military background, as soon as we saw he was interested in sharing his memory of 9/11, we were grateful.
I was still on Active Duty in 2001 (I retired in ’03), stationed in Norfolk. We had a conference in Crystal City that started on Sept. 11th. Crystal City is literally right down the road from the Pentagon; it’s filled with modern office buildings that the military uses because of its proximity to the Pentagon. As another little tidbit, I was stationed in the Pentagon from ’91 to ’94 working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Gen. Colin Powell. So the Pentagon has always been a special place to me since then.
As we began our typical military conference (mundane, boring, tedious, etc.), we had no idea about the course of events in New York. It wasn’t until a secretary came into our conference to tell us that “a helicopter crashed at the Pentagon”. The crash actually did occur right next to the Pentagon’s helo pad. At that time, naturally we took a break, at which time many of the people called their respective commands to check in. I, along with many others, went outside to see if we could see anything. Other than the beautiful sky that Tuesday morning, we saw a huge thick black mushroom cloud emanating from the building. After a few minutes of that, and watching the dozens of emergency vehicles roaring past us, we went back inside. It was at this point that we found a TV, and it was only then that we saw that both World Trade Center buildings had been hit. A few minutes later, I still didn’t realize the severity of the New York attacks when a co-worker, who had been ignoring the conference and stayed to watch the TV, told us the Twin Towers were gone. I said, “What do you mean, it’s gone?” he said “they’re fucking gone”. Incredibly, in retrospect, we continued with the conference.
My command in Norfolk is a headquarters for Navy Communications. We have a detachment that works in the Pentagon. We soon found out that eight Sailors and Civilians in that detachment had been killed. A co-worker told me that she had once introduced me to one of the civilians killed, but honestly I don’t remember that.
Later that afternoon, I finally got a hold of my wife (phone lines were absolutely jammed) to let her know I was OK. She told me a story that’s a little funny now. She had been working nights back then, so she was sleeping that morning. She got a call late in the morning from my boss in Norfolk, just telling her that I was OK. Oblivious to what he was talking about, she had to turn on the TV to realize what had happened. My two sisters living in Florida, and admittedly not paying much attention to where I was stationed at any particular time, called my wife at home because they thought I was still stationed in the Pentagon, although I had transferred from there seven years earlier. A co-worker back in Norfolk had to drive to my house in Virginia Beach to get my car key, drive back to Norfolk, and move my car away from the building because of the massive security precautions that they implemented (we had a rental in DC). Because of the massive travel cluster fuck that ensued after 9/11, later that week several of our co-workers from San Diego actually drove a rental car back to California.
As I said, we continued on with the conference that day, although many of the participants had left by that time. We adjourned for the day about 4 or 5pm, and when we did, it was a pretty crazy sight. Police at every intersection, with machine guns. After dinner, a co-worker and I took a little drive around the area of the Pentagon. We couldn’t get close with the car, and trust me when I say the police/military weren’t putting up with any shit if you tried to get closer. But once we got on the side of the building that was hit from the freeway, it was a sight I won’t forget. The Pentagon is a huge building as it is (the biggest office building in the world), but once you see it basically with a big chunk taken out of it, as well as realizing how it happened, it made you speechless. That’s it, Tony.
Here's a story from an anonymous reader:
September 11, 2001 was the second day of my cousins 3 month internship at the pentagon. She had not yet received all of her security clearances to gain access around the building, and needed an escort to the cafeteria for breakfast. As she was returning from breakfast the plane tore through her office, destroying her work area and killing several of her co-workers. A member of the U.S. military helped her to a "safe" spot under a tree outside and used his jacket to cover her. Had it been her second week of work, she'd have been killed instantly. She finished her internship, but there were lasting effects from what she was a part of. She no longer uses her double masters in criminal psychology / sociology and is a stay at home mom instead. I remember the fear that struck my family when news of the attack happened, and the joy when we found out she was safe. That joy which was so sadly never felt for thousands of others that day.
Here's a story from Ed:
Here is my 9/11 story. I had begun my critical care pharmacy residency here at UPMC and was working in the CCU at the time. We were rounding and everyone was just watching what was happening in the patient rooms and not necessarily believing what was happening. I actually had met a girl, who ended up becoming my wife, a week before in this same unit. Our anniversary is 9/10. Anyway, our attending cardiologist had dismissed the team – due to everyone's lack of focus – and just kept a fellow and resident behind to see everyone. I got to my office and, by now, the plane in Shanksville had crashed. Some folks had thought that plane was headed for Pittsburgh – which was a joke of a notion. I love the 'burgh as much as anyone, but I was pretty sure Al-Qaeda wasn't into Sudden Death remakes.
After finishing up some work, I decided to head home to my apartment in Ross. After watching some coverage of it, I made dinner. During that process, got a nice, stern knock at the door. When I answered, I was surprised to see to FBI agents there. They asked about someone with a Muslim name that lived in my building – did I see him, know him, see mail/deliveries for him, etc. I hadn't – but I can say that I think I know what players feel like when they work out with Gary Roberts. Their stares and sternness had me asking how high if they said jump. The rest, is well, history. That's pretty much it.
And finally, here's a story from LR:
I went to HS just north of DC, about 22 miles from the pentagon. I don't remember much from school, but I will never forget that day. It was third perod wood shop and we were kind of coasting along, then the announcement came across the PA; "Attention, information is limited right now, but what we can tell you is that a plane has crashed into one of the world trade centers in NYC. We will have more information soon. Please stay calm." I was a sophomore and cleary remember thinking " How could a plane crash into a building like that.." I wasnt even contemplating or acknowledging the fact that it could be terrorists. After wood shop I went to the cafateria, which was buzzing with rumors and speculation. Those with cell phones claimed to have knowledge of another crash into the WTC, but it was so absurd, so unbelievable that noone believed them. About halfway through, everyone got silent and ran to the windows to try to put a sight to the screaming sound of jet after jet. They were so low that you could almost read the call numbers on the wings. I can't describe how fast they were going, but i've never seen anything move like that. Accounting was my next class, and even there, in a clasof 20 people, speculation and claims of tferrorism were rampant. The teacher had zero control, even though control was probably yge last thing on his mind. Instant silence fcell across the room as the PA came to life. It waclearly the principal and he says "Please remain calm. We have just learned that a second plane has struck the WTC and a third has crashed into the pentagon." We immediately went into code red which allowed zero hallway traffic. Compete school wide lockdown. My accounting teacher tried to get his classroom tv turned on, but all we could get was fuzz. The jets could still be heard in the background. Cell Phone line were completely overloaded. A girl was crying in the corner because her mom wokrked in the pentagon and noone knew what the f*** was going on (her mom was unharmed). At 11:30 they made an announcement that the school was closing and everyone had 10 minutes to be out of the school. Buses were waiting as kids poured out of the school. I lived within walking distance, and so did my younger brother at a middle school about a mile away. Thatmay have been the fastest mile I had ever done trying to get to him to get him home. Once we got to the house I turned on the tv and every channel, even mtv was covering the story. My parents came home about an hour later. For the next several days, the sound of fighter jets was commonplace. People were uneasy and on edge for weeks. It was easily the craziest thing I had ever experienced. Insane.
Here's a very rare video of the WTC towers and the impact of the second plane. Don't watch it if you don't want to. Never forget.