U.S. Park Police helicopter "Eagle 1" was in the air less than two minutes after hearing of the September 11 attack on the Pentagon. "Eagle 2" followed one minute later.
Both helicopters carried trained medic personnel, and Eagle 2 would soon transport three seriously injured Defense Department employees from the Pentagon to Washington Hospital Center. Eagle 1, meanwhile, sent a live, moving video picture of the scene back to the U.S. Park Police (USPP) headquarters, as well as to D.C. Metropolitan Police, the Secret Service and the F.B.I. Those pictures provided instant information about the full extent of the damage and destruction that had just occurred at the Pentagon.
As thick, black smoke blew directly toward and into National Airport's Control Tower, blinding the sight of workers there, command and control duties of the air space were handed over to USPP, to direct all air traffic into and around the Pentagon, until later in the day when a D.C. Police helicopter could arrive on the scene. The USPP were also called upon by the Secret Service to help with many high-level evacuations, to provide escorts for President Bush and Secretary Powell, and for helicopter support for the White House grounds and for key evacuations.
All NPS staff in the National Capital Region were placed on a heightened state of alert with increased security and patrols around all monuments and memorials. Fifteen rangers responded to a USPP request for law enforcement assistance and formed two squads, one positioned at the National Mall near the Capitol and at the Jefferson Memorial, and the second dispatched to the Columbia Island marina area. Simultaneous to the Pentagon rescue operations, seven NPS Rangers helped assist 40 children and 10 adults move from the Pentagon's Day Care Center to the Columbian Island area of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Rangers stayed with the group until transportation could be arranged and the children could be reunited with their parents.
For the next 14 days, USPP helicopter staff flew 24-hour a day security patrols in 12-hour shifts, checking bridges, railroad lines and major roadways for any signs of sabotage and looking out for possible security breaches. "The work had to be done," said Pilot Sgt. Kenneth Burchell. "We'd do it all over again in a heartbeat, but let's hope it never comes to that."
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