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September 14, 2001
'Where is Safe?' Terrorists strike military nerve center
by Dennis Ryan
|Photo by Dennis Ryan
A Marine walks down a dirt hill as he exits the parking area where emergency vehicles staged to fight the raging fire.
Pentagram staff writer
"Go back. It's not safe here!"
Those were the commands of uniformed personnel pushing people back from the Pentagon about 45 minutes after the 9:43 a.m. crash of a commercial airline into the west side of the building, according to Joe Harrington, a construction foreman working on Pentagon renovations of the building.
"Where is safe?" Harrington said.
Harrington was working on the installation of new furniture in Wedge One, when he was called out to the parking lot to talk about security with his customer moments before the crash.
"About two minutes later one of my guys pointed to an American Airlines airplane 20 feet high over Washington Blvd.," Harrington said. "It seemed like it made impact just before the wedge. It was like a Hollywood movie or something. Thank God all of our crew got out."
Cheryl Hammond was the person who called Harrington and his crew out into the parking lot. "I thought they'd put out an alert or something," Hammond said. "We saw the big American Airlines plane and started running."
A hijacked passenger plane crashed into the West Side of the Pentagon in a scene eerily reminiscent of Pearl Harbor. This attack occurred approximately 40 minutes after the second of the two hijacked airliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
|The west side of the Pentagon collapses into a cloud of smoke at 10:10 a.m. Tuesday, 27 minutes after being hit by the aircraft. (Photo by Paul Haring)
||One of the first rescue helicopters on the scene transports victims from the Pentagon. (Photo by Paul Haring)
||Security personnel set up a perimeter as medical teams arrange a triage area. (Photo by Dennis Ryan)
|A U.S. F-16 fighter flies over the skies of the Pentagon shortly after police officers frantically urged people to retreat from close proximity to the building since it was believed that a second hijacked plane was approaching. (Photo by Paul Haring)
||A Pentagon worker holds what is believed to be a piece of the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon. (Photo by Dennis Ryan)
C.C. Crangle was in the building when the plane crashed. "I was one wedge away," Crangle said. "I just heard a big explosion and saw big black smoke and that's when the (stuff) started to happen. My boss was in one of those offices."
A female Pentagon worker, who declined to give her name, asked for a cell phone to call her mother, but cell phones did not seem to be working.
"I have a mother in Falls Church who's having a heart attack," she said. "And a husband in the Army in Turkey who's having a heart attack."
A small crowd of servicemen and construction workers gathered around a car in the parking lot across from the Pentagon City Mall, whose trunk and doors were open with the radio blasting news. Around10:30 a somber announcement echoed "the World Trade Center has collapsed. The World Trade Center is no more."
John Loretti had been working on the renovation project and had worried about just such a disaster occurring.
"I've been working here a year and watching those planes fly over, and I thought someone could dive-bomb the building," Loretti said.
"We put in a blast wall, blast glass and Kevlar netting. We'll see what happens. I was in the renovation trailer. It shook the whole place. It just about knocked us out of seats. It's a nightmare."
John Bowman, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and a contractor, was in his office in Corridor Two near the main entrance to the south parking lot.
"Everything was calm,' Bowman said. "Most people knew it was a bomb. Everyone evacuated smartly. We have a good sprinkling of military people who have been shot at."