As a Department of Defense contractor, I arrived at HQ Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) at 9:00 A.M. to sign a new contract scheduled for 9:30 A.M. – it was supposed to be a good day. We walked into the conference room, and everyone was watching the burning World Trade Center North Tower in New York City on TV. Three minutes later, my heart and lungs felt physically crushed as I watched Flight 175 crash into the South Tower. Our meeting was canceled but no one left – we continued to listen and watch in disbelief, silence, and tears as the news tried to keep up with the events of that morning. One of our team arrived 5 minutes late and shouted that an airliner had just passed low over our building. It turned out to be Flight 77 that then crashed a few seconds later into the western façade of the ill-fated Pentagon, a little over a mile to our east.
Almost directly between my location and the Pentagon, my daughter was working in Wing 7 of the Navy Annex just across Route 27 from the Pentagon. She was entering a conference room when the plane hit and had to grab the doorframe as the building shook so much. She and others then went outside and saw the Pentagon burning.
All who worked there were told to leave immediately (as were many in the area), but she could not get to her car as it was in the parking lot nearest the Pentagon. She started towards home with a friend by car. Many of my company’s employees worked in Government buildings, and we spent the rest of the day accounting for each one, including one who worked in the Pentagon – thankfully all were safe. Because of the overwhelmed phone and cell systems, we didn’t get confirmation until late in the day. I tried to get my daughter but couldn’t connect. After our daughter took buses and got rides from other friends, she finally showed up at our house in the late afternoon.
My wife and I took our daughter back after midnight to get her car (figuring the security perimeter would have been reduced by then). I used my retired Army ID card to be allowed through law enforcement checkpoints to reach her car. Before leaving, we stood together on the shoulder of Route 27 facing the still burning western Pentagon façade, emblazoned in lights, workers and vehicles in action everywhere, with the iconic huge American flag illuminated and hanging down – at that moment I felt an overwhelming sadness, a boiling anger and a feeling that things would never be the same again. My family remembers my anger. God bless all who died that day.