Monday, September 22, 2014

Apple #685: Remembering 9/11 -- the Pentagon

Continuing my previous entry about the 9/11 attacks, I'm going to tell you a few things I learned about the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

I don't know about you, but I tend to think of this one a little differently than the others because the building that was hit was a military building.  As if, all those people working there were military employees of one degree or another, and when you sign up for that job, you know that violence and death might come with it.

That said, it probably doesn't get more "desk job" than the Pentagon.  I doubt that any of the people who worked there ever expected an attack to land right on their doorstep -- or their very desk.

But then I only recently learned that over half of the people in the Pentagon who were killed were not members of the military, but were civilians.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense. This photo was taken in 2008, after the 9/11 attacks but before the entire reconstruction was complete -- though I don't see any signs of work in progress.
(Photo from Wikipedia)

Here are some numbers:
  • 58 passengers (including the 6 hijackers) and 6 airline crewmembers were on American Airlines flight 77 when it hit the Pentagon. 
  • Ages of the passengers ranged from 71 to 3.
  • At least 2 passengers made phone calls to people on the ground and told them the plane had been hijacked. One of those passengers was Barbara Olson.

Barbara Olson née Bracher, one of the passengers on Flight 77.
(Photo from Find a Grave)

  • Olson was an attorney and legal commentator for CNN, Fox News, and other conservative news programs. She was flying home a day early so she could be with her husband, Ted, on his birthday.  She called Ted, who happened to be the US Solicitor General (this person's job is to represent the US government in cases that come before the US Supreme Court).  She told him her flight had been hijacked and then the call got cut off.  He tried to call Attorney General John Ashcroft, but was unable to reach him.
  • She called her husband again, he asked where the flight was, but the best she could tell him was that it was "flying over houses" and that it was heading "northeast."  By this time, the plane had long since turned around from its destination flight path to Los Angeles and was instead heading toward Washington, DC.  
  • Her husband told her of the other two planes that had hit the World Trade Center.  She did not seem panicked, nor did she seem to think her own plane would soon crash.  But about 10 minutes later, at 9:37, the flight she was on hit the Pentagon.
  • As the plane zoomed closer to the Pentagon, the wings hit streetlight poles and one engine hit a power generator, causing an explosion shortly before the plane hit the building. 
  • Before impact, the hijacker "advanced the throttles to maximum power."  The plane hit the Pentagon at about 530 miles per hour.
  • All 64 people on the plane were killed.  125 people on the ground were killed.  70 of the people in the Pentagon killed were civilians.
  • The part of the building that was hit was in the process of being renovated, so fewer people were there than otherwise might have been -- only 800 of the possible 4,500 who might otherwise have been there.
  • The plane ripped a 90-foot wide hole in the west side of the building.  It penetrated the limestone exterior and 3 of the Pentagon's famous 5 rings -- a total of 210 feet.  
  • Within 40 minutes, more of the building collapsed, making rescue efforts even more difficult.  However, the incident commander was told beforehand that a collapse was likely, so he gave the order to evacuate the building, and the evacuation was swift and efficient. No first responders were injured.
  • The 4,300 gallons of airplane fuel (some say there were 7,000 gallons of fuel) resulted in fires that burned in the building for several days.  
  • The area that was hit was equipped with a newly installed sprinkler system, but other parts of the building did not have sprinklers, and it was there that the fire spread and caused the greatest damage. Also at that time, the building was "packed with thousands of tons of asbestos, brushed with lead-based paint and constructed with mercury and PCBs."

This gives you an idea of the vertical size of the impact into the side of the Pentagon.
(Photo from the FBI)

In this overhead shot, you can see the hole in the outer wall.  It's hard to see any damage to the 2nd ring, but then you can see the blackened area on the inside of the 3rd ring
(Photo from the FBI)

Devastation, two rescue workers, and their dog at work.
(Photo from the FBI)

  • I found out many years later, someone from my high school was in the Pentagon when it was hit.  He was one of the people helping others to get out.  
  • I wanted to upload the video of CBS News recalling 10 years later what happened at the Pentagon, but they won't let me embed the video.  So here's a link to the CBS page where you can watch the clip, if you're interested. He's the tall skinny guy in the naval uniform.  He describes how he and some others ran into the hole made by the aircraft to pull people out, and how he freed a man trapped under his desk.
  • The Pentagon Memorial is a large park filled with benches and with lined with trees.  The benches are aligned on the path the plane took toward the building.  Each bench is for one victim.  The benches are arranged in chronological order by the birth dates of the victims.  

Benches at the Pentagon Memorial. There is a little pool of water beneath each bench.
(Photo by VeloBusDriver at Flickr)

  • The first bench at one side of the memorial is for John D. Yamnicky, Sr., a defense contractor who was born in 1930, fought in two wars as a Navy pilot, and who had a patch over one eye.  He was a passenger on Flight 77.
  • The last bench at the opposite side of the memorial is for Dana Falkenberg, 3 years old, born in University Park, Maryland. She was a passenger on Flight 77.  She was traveling with her father and her sister, Zoe.
  • Here is a random sample of some of the other people who have benches in the memorial:
    • Allen P. Boyle, born 1970, lived in Fredericksburg, VA.  He was a Defense Department contractor.
    • Janice M. Scott was born in 1954 and was from Springfield, VA.  She was a civilian employee of the US Army.  She often visited the National Archives and she researched her family history, going back several generations to ancestors who had been slaves in Mississippi and left after the Civil War.

Janice M. Scott, one of the scores of people killed by the attacks on 9/11.
(Photo from The Washington Post)

    • Peggie M. Hurt was an accountant for the US Army.  She was 36 years old and lived in Crewe, VA. She sang in her church choir and made the 3- to 4-hour drive every third Sunday to go back to her hometown church to sing. The night before the attacks, she'd taken her godmother out to dinner to celebrate her 86th birthday.
    • Dong Chul Lee was a passenger on Flight 77.  He was born in 1953, and was from Leesburg, VA.  He worked as an engineer for Boeing, which meant he often flew to Seattle for his job.  He had a wife, Jungmi, and three children. 
    • Johnnie Doctor, Jr. was an information systems technician first class for the US Navy. He was 32 years old, from Jacksonville, FL. He used to wear a pendant on a chain around his neck. They found the pendant on his body, but no chain. The pendant was the thing that convinced his wife he was really gone. 

Johnnie Doctor, Jr., another of those killed in the crash into the Pentagon.
(Photo from The Washington Post)

What the Pentagon Memorial looks like at night.
(Photo from mla.march.penn)

See also Remembering 9/11 -- Shanksville, PA and Remembering 9/11 -- the World Trade Center

National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, "We Have Some Planes" and Heroism and Horror
FBI, Ten Years After: The FBI Since 9/11, Response and Recovery: The Pentagon in Flames and The Flights
The New York Times, Barbara Olson, 45, Advocate and Conservative Commentator, September 13, 2001
Daily Mail, Wife's secret call from hijacked plane [date not provided]
CBS Evening News, Heroic tales from the Pentagon on 9/11/01, September 8, 2011
Los Angeles Times, Pentagon, a Vulnerable Building, Was Hit in Least Vulnerable Spot, September 16, 2001
The Washington Post, A Long-Awaited Opening, Bringing Closure to Many, September 12, 2008

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