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Pentagon 9/11 Paperback – September 5, 2007
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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The Department of Defense Historical Office has published a definitive account of the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. From the description: "Pentagon 9/11 provides the most comprehensive account to date of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon and aftermath, including unprecedented details on the impact on the Pentagon building and personnel and the scope of the rescue, recovery, and care-giving effort. It's evocative narrative is based on firsthand accounts of survival, tragedy, and heroism drawn from hundreds of interviews, and features 32 pages of previously unpublished photographs, diagrams and illustrations." According to the authors, the book also gives the civilian world a glimpse into the way the military responds to crisis and how it takes care of its own. It also shows the successful coordination and the response of the emergency response groups in the area. More on the book can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=47355
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TARGET: THE PENTAGON. The building was completed in January 1943 after 16 months of effort. It covers 29 acres, 6.6 square feet in total, of which 3.8 square feet is office space. The structure of the building is described in detail, including its A to E system of rings, numbering and layout of the wedges, corridors, and office numbering system. In 1997, the Department of Defense established Pentagon renovation project PENREN, which was scheduled for completion in 2014. At the time of the attack, the number of people employed at Pentagon was 18.000, both military and civilian; and the wedge 1, where the plane hit, was nearly completed, including blast resistant windows. In this section, the fate of the four hijacked aircraft is briefly described, including timeliness. This was later important for explanation of grounds for decision making. The impact at 9:37 am destroyed offices in the Wedge 1 which belonged mostly to the Army and Navy, but also OSD and DIA. The structural damage was less than if the plane hit non-renovated parts, but the death toll was high because the offices were already fully occupied. Energy of the crash diverted through corridors, shafts, and stairwells, where it created death traps.
THE DEADLY STRIKE. The total number of DOD casualties was 125 (70 civilian and 55 military), 59 crew and passengers on board AA flight 77, and 5 hijackers. In addition, 106 people were admitted to hospital for treatment of injuries. 92 people who perished on the first floor belonged to the Army, Navy, OSD, and DIA, including 34 members of 40 present of the Army Program and budget and managerial accounting divisions, and 7 of 13 members of the Intelligence plot section. The key to survival was to find the way out of the building. 31 casualties on the 2nd floor included members of the OSD and the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. Two people died on the 3rd floor and 1 after admission to hospital. All others evacuated the building swiftly before collapse over the impact zone.
THE RESCUERS. This is the most touching part of the book, as it describes how many people put themselves in harm's way to help disoriented and severely injured survivors to make their way out of the building. People only gave up when the smoke became so thick that it made any rescue efforts impossible. One of the rescuers, Army Captain Lincoln Leibner, witnessed the AA flight 77 from the South Parking, and described it as fully controlled, full throttled, wheels up. The FBI arrived on the scene after 10:00 am. At 10:15, all rescue efforts had to stop because of FAA warning of a second airplane (United flight 93 which crashed near Shanksville, PA) heading towards Washington. The warning was called off at 10:40 am.
FIGHTING THE FIRE. Within the first 36 hours, the most critical missions were to save lives and property. The attack took place near the heliport, which was used for evacuation of emergencies. Command and Control became responsibility of Arlington County Fire Division James Schwartz, who in the 1970's implemented Incident Command System after inadequate response to wildfires. The site was handed over to the FBI on September 21, 2001, when the fire was fully extinguished. Christopher Combs (FBI), who arrived 9:50 am, had comfortable working relationship with Schwartz from previous trainings and exercises. Initial search, rescue, and firefighting efforts were described by the participants as organized chaos. Most rescues occurred before the emergency assistance arrived. By 5:30 pm, the Army engineers determined that no one remained alive in the search areas.
TREATING THE INJURED, SEARCHING FOR REMAINS. By 10:15, all survivors were evacuated, but the dead remained in place. Documenting of bodies in the wreckage was work of FEMA, FBI, USMC photographers, Army engineers, and young members of the 3rd Infantry Old Guard Regiment. Cadaver dogs were able to find remains even in places where nobody else would be able to find them. This sad job was finished by September 26. Medical assistance was available at Army DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic, and Walter Reed Army Medical Centre. Regional trauma center at Fairfax hospital had tremendous resources at its disposal, but these were eventually not required. Body recovery teams consisted of 1 FBI, 1-2 FEMA, a photographer, and 4 carriers from the Old Guard. The task was especially challenging for the young soldiers who had no experience with death before.
UP AND RUNNING. Contingencies for the event of destruction of Pentagon did exist within DOD. The scale of the attack did require improvisation to ensure continuity of operations worldwide. President Bush was flown by the Air Force One from Sarasota, Florida, first to Barksdale Air Force base, and then to Offutt AF base in Omaha, Nebraska, where the U.S. Strategic Command was located. Secretary Rumsfeld, who remained in Pentagon, contacted the President after 10:00 am, and informed him that despite severe damage, Pentagon was still functioning. Defense condition was increased from 5 to 3 (intermediate), and the main focus became control of U.S. airspace. President Bush phoned Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Moscow to terminate their exercise, which they did, and ordered the U.S. Strategic Command to end its Global Guardian exercise testing nuclear command and control procedures. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz reluctantly relocated to alternate HQ outside Washington DC. Building Operations CC ordered lockdown of all mechanical and electrical rooms and secured them against attack immediately after they became aware of the second plane hitting WTC. After the attack, they did all they could to assist the occupants of wedge 1 to find their way out of the building. Cooling systems had to be shut down because of low pressure which was a result of broken pipes, but critical systems kept running. Despite the odds, Pentagon was opened for business the next day, and by day 5, all occupants had alternative workstations. FBI restricted access to the destroyed areas, which were treated as crime scene. This part describes incredible resilience and ability of the DOD staff to carry on under extreme circumstances.
SECURING THE PENTAGON. The task to protect the Pentagon against future terrorist attacks, safeguarding the building's secrets, collecting evidence, keeping intruders away, etc was the task of the Defense Protective Service (the Pentagon Police). The number of agencies involved created jurisdictional and chain of command problems. When everybody was ordered to leave the site after the warning of second incoming plane, FBI photographers stayed on site waiting for the airplane. The site was checked for possible content of chemical, biological, and radiological contamination, which could be carried on board of the airplane; all were negative. FBI and later DPS took care of recovery of safes and disks with classified material. Before 10:20, the President authorized Vice-President Cheney to shoot down hijacked aircraft. The 9/11 Commission highlighted effectiveness of the collaboration between agencies, mainly resulting from strong professional relationships and trust, adoption of the Incident Command System, and regional approach to response. The people involved knew each other due to excessive experience working together in various exercises.
CARING FOR THE DEAD AND THE LIVING. Just one person, Antoinette Sherman, died in hospital, all others were recovered from the building and had to be identified using forensic methods. All 188 were taken to the Dover Port Mortuary, where all the forensic examinations took place. Five victims could not be identified because there was no reference DNA or a dental record. Military Dead were dressed up with all insignia regardless the condition, and prepared in the Mortuary. Civilians were placed in caskets and returned to their families. Next of kin often required full autopsy report, which was provided. Pentagon Family Assistance Center was set up to help the families with legal advice, asset retrieval from those missing, and with family counseling. Those who could not be individually identified were buried in a shared grave.
Memorial service took place on October 11. A week later, the demolition started, to be completed on November 19. By September 11, 2002, occupants were allowed to return to wedge 1. 200 members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and DIA received medals and awards relating to the attack, including Purple Hearts. Two awards were created in October 2001 for civilians: Defense of Freedom as the equivalent of Purple Heart, and Medal of Valor.