9/11 Everyone has a story- I was close
I’ve given 9/11 some thought today as everyone has a story. I’ve been telling mine for years. I don’t think it is any more unique than anyone else’s however I figured I would go ahead and put it in writing. On September 11, 20o1 I was working in Pentagon City which is located in Arlington, Va. That particular day I drove my White Jeep Wrangler to work since I was interviewing for a Federal Government job. The building I worked at was pretty close to the Pentagon. I frequently took the Metro (Subway) to and from the Pentagon and also got picked up and dropped off people in the Pentagon parking lot during that time so I’m intimately familiar with the area and I was very close to the event. That day I was dressed in my pinstriped blue interview suit, I had my cordovan shoes, a nice light blue shirt and red power tie. I was looking good and the job I was interviewing for was pretty much a “gimmie”. If I remember correctly MCI WorldCom had just went out of business during that time. The MCI WorldCom building was literally adjacent to the building I worked in so I know factually that 100’s of people had applied for my hopeful new job. The good news was I had someone on the inside hand deliver my resume to HR so I was all set at least to get the interview.
That day I dropped some people off at the Pentagon who I picked up carpooling (Slugging) and parked in a gravel lot that was right next to the Residence Inn in Pentagon City. I walked across the street as I normally do and as I approached the security guard he said “Hey, did you hear about the plane that hit the Twin Tower?”. “No, What happened?” I said. The Security Guard said, “I think a small plane hit one of the buildings and they think it’s the Palestinians. I really didn’t think too much of it as I really didn’t have a clear understanding of the gravity of the situation. Just like most days I was on the bottom floor of the building and I walked to the cafeteria. I found my close friend Brent and we noticed that everyone was watching all of the monitors throughout the cafeteria. As we were watching we were seeing footage of the first building burning and then we saw the second plane ram right into the second tower. I’ll never forget looking at Brent and saying “Wouldn’t it be crazy if that shit happened here?”. We continued to be amazed by what we were seeing on the monitors and as we were watching I felt an enormous explosion, I saw the windows in the building literally buckle in and out and immediately looked at Brent and said “It’s time to go!” I was literally one of the first 5 people out of the building. I calmly walked out and as I looked over the highway I could see the mushroom cloud over the top of 395. There was a woman in front of me who was beginning to panic and I told her “Miss, stay calm and just go home now”. The first thing that took hold in my mind was my Marine Corps training. I thought “You don’t know what was in that bomb”. It could be nuclear, biological or chemical. With that in mind we had to evade the situation and evade it quickly. If there were some sort of agent in that bomb we had to move quickly to get far away from it. With that in mind Brent and I jogged across the street back to the gravel parking lot, got in my jeep and began to drive off. As we were beginning to drive off we saw Barry standing motionless in the parking lot just staring at his cell phone. I screamed at him Barry! He was obviously trying to dial a number but absolutely none of us had a signal and the cellular infrastructure was nothing like it is today. I screamed at Barry again and told him to get in the back. The back window to my Jeep Wrangler was off so Barry leaped over the spare tire and literally shoulder rolled into the back of my Jeep. We were all trying to make phone calls at this point but no one could get through to anyone. I looked down at my gas gauge and noticed we definitely needed gas. I drove down the street to Crystal City to get gas and on the radio we were hearing all types of misinformation. At one point we heard a bomb went off at the US State Department Building and another time we heard a gas station had been blown up in Crystal City. We then heard that all traffic on 95 South had been shut down. Of course 95 South is the direction we were headed. I began to get gas and Brent was beginning go get a little upset. He grabbed the bar that sits on the passenger side of the Jeep and began to tug on it pretty hard. There was a man in front of us calmly pumping gas and Brent stepped out of the vehicle, grabbed the man by the shoulders, shook him a bit and said “Sir, do you have any idea what is going on? Planes just hit the Twin Towers and a bomb went off at the Pentagon!” Frankly I don’t think the guy had any idea what was going on. Once I was done filling up my gas tank we began heading down Route 1 South since we were hearing 95 South was shut down. Unfortunately Route 1 is a much slower road as it has traffic lights and is a bit more residential. As we started heading south we began to come up with a game plan. I told Brent I would take him home, then Brent would drive Barry home. Brent would get his kids out of school and I explained I would do the same, then I was going to head South to my in-laws retirement home at the Chesapeake Bay in Reedville, VA. My wife was already there working on a boat dock with my father-in-law and I wanted to get as far away from Washington, DC as possible.
While traveling South on Route 1 you could begin hearing all of the sirens begin to head north. Firetrucks were finally being mobilized and all the action began to take place. As we were driving we noticed that a pretty bad accident had just taken place. There was a big old car on the other side of the road, its chrome bumper had literally been taken off and this little car was sideways in the intersection. I looked at Brent and said “We at least have to make sure these people are ok”. Brent agreed. I pulled my Jeep into the left turn lane and noticed that the firetrucks were literally just passing by the accident like it didn’t even happen which as you can imagine indicates that something more serious is happening somewhere else. Brent and I exited my Jeep and Brent picked up this heavy chrome bumper and threw it off of the street. There was a man sitting on the curb with his elbows on his knees and his hands perching his head up. I ran over and asked him if he was injured and if he was ok. He said he was fine. I then ran over to the old car which was filled with people and looked inside. Every one of them was wearing a turban (Forgive me here). I immediately thought in my head that this car accident was all a part of the bigger plot. These people with turbans (who were most likely people from India, sorry for my ignorance) are a part of this terrorist plot! I asked if everyone in the car was ok, they said yes. I looked at Brent, we both made a move to the Jeep and started heading south again. Firetrucks and sirens were still heading north and I was finally able to get my first call out. I spoke to my father-in-law on the phone and explained my plan. He said ok. I said “Craig! Do you have any idea what just happened? Two planes hit the Twin Towers and a bomb just went off at the Pentagon! I’m picking up the kids from school and then I’m headed to you!” My wife tells me that once Craig truly absorbed what I was telling him he basically turned ghost white. I then left messages with several family members, let them know what my plans we then continued south. I eventually made it to Woodbridge, Va, dropped off Brent and Barry and safely made it home to Spotsylvania, Va. Most of the story after dropping Brent and Barry off is a complete blank.
- I remember going to Wal-Mart to pick up shotgun ammunition and the ammunition shelves were completely empty and all the guns were removed.
- I do remember getting a battery powered radio and batteries. I still have the radio.
- I remember coming back to work and seeing snipers perched on top of the Pentagon City Mall.
- I remember seeing federal agents walking around the building I worked at with assault rifles and full tactical gear. This is obviously not standard.
- I remember seeing the flag draped over the Pentagon like you see in the pictures. There was also a flag draped over our building.
- I remember later on in the year jets would fly directly over our building heading to Arlington Cemetery for funerals. When they flew over it would be so loud in our building since we were on the 9th floor. It shook me up and I would run to the window to see what was going on. I’ve always had a tactical mind since my time in the Marine Corps and I’ve still been vigilant sense. I was on the ready if those planes were going to hit. One lady actually had a heart attack because of the planes.
- I remember the trucks that would go into the bottom of our building and slam the dumpsters so hard it would literally shake the entire building. For a while that would freak me out a bit.
- I remember seeing antiaircraft missiles being setup in multiple places outside the Pentagon. This went on for about a month or so.
- I remember seeing the permanent security posture of the Pentagon change.
- I’ve seen many government buildings change their security postures.
- I’ve called into the FBI events that I’ve witnessed that seem suspect.
- Because I look slightly of middle eastern descent (I’m not) I’ve been a target for extra scrutiny when traveling overseas as well as domestically.
- I remember seeing one of the real victims of 9/11 who was on our bowling league with her husband at Target months later. Her fingers were completely burnt off, her ears were completely burnt off, her face was completely mangled, eyelids mangled and you could clearly see she had skin graphs all over her body. She looked like a ghost. They said they bought an RV and were going to travel for the rest of their lives. Good for them I thought.
9/11 didn’t traumatize me but it did bring to reality that the United States is vulnerable to many things. I knew this prior due to my training in the Marine Corps but never imagined I’d see it so close. I know people that were much closer to the tragedy and a few I know had to help clean up the carnage of the event. During my time in the Marine Corps I blew up all kinds of stuff, shot all kinds of weapons but never have I felt the type of impact of a plane flying into a building at such a close proximity nor did I ever imagine I would see a mushroom cloud pouring out of the Pentagon. The reality is 9/11 changed the United States and the course of the world. I just hope for the best and I hope the first responders and anyone impacted by 9/11 heal. I’ll be praying for the ones I know closely and very well tonight. You know who yo are.
Listed below are pictures of the Pentagon memorial. It’s a humbling sight. I’ve also visited the Pennsylvania memorial however I can’t seem to find the pictures. I’ve also attached a map of the area. The red dot is where I was located and the black dot is where the plane hit.
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