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September 11, 2001

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Picture credit: spaceimaging.com. Copyright ęSpace Imaging. All rights reserved. Online and news media distribution or publishing requires permission from Space Imaging.

 

This satellite photo of the Pentagon taken on September 12 shows the damage done to the outer ring (the "E" Ring) of the building, and to two of the ten corridors that radiate from the inner ring (the "A" Ring), connecting the building's five concentric rings. Corridors 4 and 5 and that portion of the E Ring that lies between them were badly damaged by smoke and fire when the terrorists who had seized control of American Airlines Flight 77 crashed the plane into the building. The place, just to the right of Corridor 4, where a portion of the E Ring collapsed is clearly visible. DDM's Pentagon office was located in the D Ring just to the left of Corridor 5.

While DDM is usually in his office on Tuesday mornings, on September 11 he happened to be conducting a class in the Mezzanine, the Pentagon's heavily-reinforced sub-basement, just off Corridor 8. This fortunate circumstance put him well out of harm's way.

DDM learned of the tragic events that took place in New York that morning almost as they happened, for the room in which he was about to begin his class had a cable TV hookup, and he and his students were watching CNN. However, when Flight 77 slammed into the building, no one felt or heard anything -- the distance from the point of impact was too great. The fire alarms went off and the order to evacuate the building was given shortly after 9:40.

Knowing nothing of what had happened, DDM left the building and joined a crowd of Pentagon employees, military and civilian, in the North Parking Lot (just off the bottom right corner of the photograph).  From there he could see the smoke rising from the other side of the building.

Rumors flew back and forth and there was much confusion concerning what had happened. There was no panic, however, not even when casualties -- people whose clothes were torn and dirty and who were covered with cuts and bruises -- were brought into the North Parking Lot area for medical treatment.

Suddenly -- DDM estimates that this happened about 10:00 -- the Pentagon security police began frantically to order people to move as far away from the building as possible. They had received a report that another plane was approaching, that it was expected to arrive in the area within twenty minutes, and that it might also attempt to crash into the Pentagon. Again, there was no panic; people moved away quickly but calmly, and waited anxiously. But no aircraft appeared, other than the fighters that had taken off from nearby Andrews Air Force Base to defend the skies over the capital. (We know now that the plane that was expected was, of course, the United Airlines flight that crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA, when the passengers, at the cost of their own lives, heroically attempted to take back control of the aircraft from the terrorists who had seized it.)

While many people sought cover at the far end of the parking lot, in a wooded area along the Potomac River, others decided that it would be best to leave the area completely. The parking lot quickly emptied as a wholesale exodus began. Those without cars simply walked away. DDM joined the many who walked north along the highway, individually and in small groups, past Arlington National Cemetery, toward Arlington, VA.

DDM, unharmed, came home to his family later that afternoon. Others, of course, were not so fortunate. In the years that he has worked at the Pentagon, DDM has met and worked with many interesting and wonderful people. We are sorry to report that five of them were among those who lost their lives. They are
  • Mr. John Chada
  • Lieutenant Colonel Dean Mattson, United States Army
  • Ms. Molly McKenzie
  • Mr. Scott Powell
  • Mr. Mike Selves.

DDM extends his most heartfelt sympathies to their families.