Sept 11

On Sept 11, 2001 when a plane crashed into the Pentagon, Anita was working there in her office on the outer ring. Fortunately she was not injured and returned to work the next day.

Doug sent this message to friends the afternoon of the September 11 attack.

Sent: Tuesday 11 September 2001 13:51 Subject: Pentagon

Just got back from my vantage point for the Pentagon attack, along the Arlington Cemetery fence about 200 yds from the impact point. Closer than any reporters or cameramen, though a Wash Post photog arrived just as I was leaving.

I definitely have a dog in the fight, as my wife Anita is a recently-appointed Deputy Asst Sec’y of the Navy and was working in her office just around the corner in the E ring, 4th floor, Mall entrance side. She’s okay, they evacuated her office with no huhu and boarded buses for Crystal City dropoff points.

She felt impact, heard explosion, thought maybe a small plane had crashed at Reagan Airport. Then saw smoke coming from D ring about 20 windows down, and got the heck out of Dodge.

As soon as I heard about the attack, I got in the Jeep and drove over. Got there about 1000. Washington Blvd and the Ft. Myer gates were blocked off, so I went around to the GW Parkway, took my Arlington Cemetery pass out of the glove box, and drove on in, just beating the road shutdowns.

The plane hit on the west side, in a wedge of the Pentagon that has been shut down several months for remodeling. Therefore not heavily occupied, but not empty either. CNO’s spaces are right next to the area of the impact. Parking lot covered with small debris; some bright aluminum scraps visible from about 80 yds. Section of the Pentagon about 10 windows wide completely stove in, floor to ceiling and at least halfway to the core. Flames, black smoke. Pentagon personnel proceeding briskly westward on foot to dropoff point.

A few Marine officers from SecNav staff and elsewhere hopped the fence where I was, heading for the Navy Annex to rally and see who’s available and who’s missing.

Took a while for fire engines to arrive in bulk. Rescue squads busy, but couldn’t approach the damaged sections. Saw some injured being evacuated, so they probably worked their way in from the undamaged periphery. Talked with Arlington Cemetery workers, several eyewitnesses to the attack. Said that two American Airlines planes were flying erratically. The one that hit the Pentagon circled, aimed, and went straight in, wings wagging as though the pilot was unsteady at the helm. They saw and felt the fireball; more of a dull boom than a sharp explosion.


Anita’s reflections one year later, published in National Review Online:

Wednesday morning, September 12, fires still burned at the Pentagon, but the SecDef declared business as usual. My car was still where I’d parked it 24 hours before, so I rode to the Navy Annex and then walked the last smoky half mile. The Pentagon outside looked hellish, but thanks to television, weirdly familiar. Inside it looked strange, rung with yellow POLICE SCENE tape, our friendly guards suddenly swinging M4s. Everywhere big, sooty boot prints covered the polished floors wall to wall. What hot, hard work it must have been to comb those long corridors in heavy gear. At each junction every soda machine stood upright, locked, empty, and blinking. I felt ashamed thinking of rescuers digging for “EXACT CHANGE ONLY” just to get a slug of Coke.

Apart from the acrid smell, my office was untouched. Barbara Olson, a friend of ten years, and Capt. Jack Punches, USN (Ret), a friend of ten days — both gone together in the same instant. Just before the plane hit, I had been marking a piece of text on my computer screen. One day later I pressed “CTRL-V” (paste) and the text reappeared — an insignificant thought interrupted by eternity.



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