Sept 12, 2001. Driving in to work in Crystal City, VA. The single contrail you see is from an AWACS early-warning aircraft up that day. Smoke is still coming from the west side of the Pentagon.
I was a mile and a half away from the Pentagon that day, in our 11th floor offices at Anteon. The day, of course, started off no different than normal. I had headed over to the Navy Yard early that day to get something from my boss. I had forgotten my military ID card, but in that day and age you could still get on base with any old ID card. After I was back at my deck in Crystal City, a phone call came in from my wife Karen, who worked at Customs in the Reagan Building next to the Mall. “A plane has crashed into the WTC”.
Everyone else drifted back to their offices, but I stayed, still held by the images of what was happening. About then, Jim Miklaszewski, the NBC Pentagon correspondent, broke into the news feed and said “I just felt the building shake”. When you say you just felt the building shake, and that building is “The Pentagon”, that is news. I took about 4 steps to the window and looked off to the north and saw a huge red fireball/black cloud beginning to billow above the rooftops. I hurried back to my office, poking my head into ever doorway down the hall…”Pentagon was just hit by something”.
Karen called back telling me she had been directed to evacuate, and our boss said “Leave” as well. I told Karen to just start walking my way and I’d head her way and we’d meet somewhere in between.
As I was getting on to 395 to cross the 14th street bridge, I saw a sparkling in the sky and air around me – it was billions of pieces of aluminum from the shattered airplane that had hit the west facade of the Pentagon. Never will forget that image.
I met Karen near the Mall, picked her up and turned around to head home to Woodbridge. We slowed by the Pentagon as we passed – the damaged section had not collapsed yet, but it was obvious there was a great deal of damage.
I found out later that my old reserve unit, the Navy Command Center, which I had left 9 months prior, had taken a direct hit in their new spaces they had just recently moved in to and lost over 30 Navy officers, enlisted and civilians, including a few I had come to know during my duty there.
Never forget, folks.