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Defense / NATIONAL SECURITY

Voices of 9/11

Inferno: The Pentagon death toll, including those on board Flight 77, surpassed the carnage in Oklahoma City.(AP Photo/Will Morris)

May 3, 2011

The following are first-person accounts of Americans and their experiences on September 11, 2001. These interviews originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

With the President

Ari Fleischer
White House press secretary

After the first plane hit, the president was planning to give remarks saying that he was saddened by what had happened in New York and that he was offering the full resources of the federal government to deal with the tragedy. We thought a plane had flown off course, and it was a terrible accident. Offering help in that way was the logical thing to do and say. But at the very moment Andy Card was whispering in the president's ear that a second plane had hit, I got a page telling me the same thing. That's when we knew it was terrorism.

I quickly wrote out, in big letters on a note pad, "DON'T SAY ANYTHING YET" and maneuvered so that my back was to the press pool as I showed the sign to the president. He gave a little nod in assent. I then gave orders to get the pool out of the room. I remember the president saying to the class as he left the room, "You're such good readers, you must be in the sixth grade." He didn't want to alarm the kids, who didn't know anything that was happening, so he kept his mood the same for them.

The president, Dan Bartlett, and I worked on his remarks. Then he went to the school's gym, where he had been planning to give a speech. After the speech, we left in a hurry. At 9:45, as we boarded Air Force One, I heard the president say on the phone to the vice president, "Sounds like we have a minor war going on here. I heard about the Pentagon." That's how I found out the Pentagon had been attacked.

On board the plane, the president motioned me to come to his cabin. He said, "I want you to take this all down." I think he meant everything-and that's what I did. I stayed by his side the rest of the day, with just a couple of exceptions, and I took notes. I did leave the cabin when he spoke to his father and to his wife; I didn't feel it was my place to be there. I also spent a few moments away from him on the way to Barksdale Air Force Base while I typed out his remarks. For me, so much of the day was focused on work. I don't think I stopped to think. I did my job. And my job that day was to be attentive. I listened to the president, offered my thoughts when he asked for them, wrote out his remarks for delivery, talked to the press, and took notes on what he said and did and saw.

At Barksdale, in the office of the commanding general of the base, I called my mother to say that I was OK and to see how she was. I asked her, "Do we know anybody who is missing?" At that point, the answer was no, but as it turns out, my parents' friends lost several family members. They were aboard the plane that hit the Pentagon.

"The president motioned me to come to his cabin. He said, 'I want you to take this all down.' "
 


It's a good thing I took these notes, because the events of that day-that whole week-were a blur. I refer to them all the time. The president's visit to the burn unit at Washington Hospital Center on September 13 to see some of those wounded at the Pentagon was more poignant than you can imagine. But for me, the hardest day was that Friday, September 14. The president's day began at a Cabinet meeting at which the president got teary-eyed. Then there was the National Cathedral speech in which the president spoke to the nation. After that, we took the helicopter ride to New York. You could smell the World Trade Center site burning 10 miles out, even from the air. Then there was that long motorcade ride into the rubble in the heart of New York-my hometown.

After his appearance with the workers at the site, President Bush met privately with some of the victims' families. That was the most gut-wrenching of all. One man held his 8-year-old nephew in his arms. The boy carried a picture of his father-I think he was a fireman-and he told the president, "This is my dad." Another woman asked the president to sign a picture of her son, and then she put it in the family Bible. Not one person the president talked to thought their missing relatives were dead. Not one. But none of them came out of that pile alive. That day, people lined 42nd Street in New York City like it was Main Street in a small town that had never seen a president before. They were 15 deep and holding signs saying, "God Bless America." As we passed Times Square, the streamer that carries the news bulletins said, "Bush calls up 50,000 reservists." It all gave me a chill. It was this unfathomable feeling: Our nation is heading to war.

I'm not normally an introspective person, but this is something the whole nation is going to look back on for a long time. For me, it wasn't until Rosh Hashana-early the next week, when I talked with my family-that it hit me as a person. It was, until then, almost all work and no reflection. A cousin said to me that she had a view of the World Trade Center, and that's when it dawned on me that when President Bush was talking to New Yorkers, he was talking to my family. That's when it came home to me. And I cried.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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Kia Baskerville
Associate producer, CBS News

I went on the Florida trip at the last minute, replacing our White House correspondent, John Roberts. Bush was visiting Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota. As the presidential motorcade headed to President Bush's first event, I received a call on my cell phone from a producer who said that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. Fifteen minutes later, I was standing in a second-grade classroom with 20 students who were getting ready to read for the president. I received another phone call, this time from CBS radio correspondent Mark Knoller. "Kia, a plane has now crashed into the second tower, so it looks like this is deliberate. You need to ask Bush about this."
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After the speech, the Air Force One travel pool was told to go back to the motorcade for an immediate departure. In five years of traveling with the White House press corps, I have never run so fast to avoid missing a presidential motorcade. On the way to the airport, we listened to the radio with our mouths wide open in disbelief: Not only had two planes crashed into the trade center complex, but a commercial jet had just crashed into the Pentagon.

In our small, cozy cabin in the back of Air Force One, the 12 or so members of the White House travel pool did what millions of other Americans did that day: We turned on the news. As Air Force One flew on-we knew not where-we tuned in to one local news report after another, using the plane's satellite TV system. We were not prepared for what we saw. As I looked at the faces of my colleagues, I saw they were all filled with fear and terror. Then the steward came by and took our drink orders. There isn't time to feel guilty about ordering a Bloody Mary at 10 in the morning while you are flying on a targeted plane watching the World Trade Center collapse in front of your eyes.

After two hours, we should have been landing or starting our descent. We asked a passing Secret Service agent how high up we were, and he told us 45,000 feet-I thought to myself, we're not going home. Twenty minutes later, Gordon Johndroe, a White House press aide, came back to tell us that a national emergency had been declared and they were evacuating the president. He then said, "Do not turn on your cell phones. The president will make a speech, and we'll find a way for it to be broadcast; we'll keep a press presence with him. The president has spoken to Laura and the vice president. He's making calls and preparing a statement."

With fighter jets on both wings, we landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Scores of F-16s and B-52s were parked and looking ominous. Military personnel with large machine guns surrounded the plane. The press corps was rushed off and huddled under the wing while Ari Fleischer debriefed us on what would take place next-a second address to the nation.

"I had no idea I'd be cuing the president to go on worldwide television. Then it was time."


After an intense, quick equipment and conference call setup, all five networks took the videotape live to air. For those few minutes, as the tape played to air, there was an intense silence as everyone listened to what President Bush had to say. As it played, our military escort signaled us to wrap up and prepare to head back to the base. By the time I returned to the base, Andrew Card had made the decision to take a smaller contingent of travel pool members on the rest of the journey-which did not include me. So, as we stood on the tarmac, the remaining press corps and White House aides watched Air Force One taxi down the runway, headed for its next destination, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. At this moment, so many things ran through my mind, including, How will I get back home to my family, with all airports closed to incoming and outgoing traffic? But a plan was already in place to fly the remaining few of us back to Washington aboard a government transport jet used by the Cabinet.

At 5 p.m., on course to land within minutes at Andrews, I looked out the left side of the plane to see the sun beginning to set and smoke from the Pentagon still rising. Until you saw, with your own eyes, the devastation that had taken place, it all didn't seem real. I was anxious to be on the ground, to call home, to check in at work, to just try to regain some sense of normalcy.

I checked in with my boss, Tom Mattesky, and got my marching orders: Go to the White House. The president was returning, and CBS was designated as pool for his Oval Office address to the nation. I was to assist our special-events producer, Tom Seem. I had no idea I'd be cuing the president to go on worldwide television. By 8, I was at the White House. The president entered the Oval and began to practice reading his text from the prompter. He made it very clear that he wanted no noise and no movement. I had to interrupt his train of thought to let him know he would have to focus on me because I'd be giving him the countdown. Then it was time. "Thirty seconds, 15, seconds, 10 ... 5, 4, 3, 2, 1," I said as I pointed my finger, signaling him to begin.

At the end of his address, I looked up to see a very somber man sitting behind the desk that belonged to many past, great leaders. I realized that life was bigger than all of us, especially today. The president didn't speak or look at anyone for several minutes. He just sat there, as still as could be. My heart went out to him. He noticed my stare and affirmative nod-as if to say, it's going to be all right-and he proceeded to tell me what a nice job I had done. An exhausted smile grew on my face as he walked out wishing us all the best. It was a very proud moment for me, but also the saddest.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

Want the news first every morning? Sign up for National Journal’s Need-to-Know Memo. Short items to prepare you for the day.

Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla.

President Bush had scheduled a visit to Booker Elementary School in Sarasota to give a major speech on education on the morning of September 11. I'd spent the weekend in Washington, but I flew down in order to be with the president and to fly back on Air Force One with him. Adam Putnam was the other congressman. It was his district that joined my area in Sarasota. The president was scheduled to arrive at Booker at 9 o'clock in the morning. I was told something had hit the World Trade Center, but I didn't think too much more about it. We all weren't focused on that.

The classroom was small, so there were a limited number of people in that room besides the students. I went into the auditorium-type room and was awaiting the president's speech. The second plane hit at 9:05 or so. We all started to realize the magnitude of what was happening. We were just in a state of shock: "This can't be true. This can't be true."

Matt Kirk, of the Legislative Liaison Office at the White House, was assigned to us, and he tried to keep us updated. Things were in a state of flux, and the Secret Service agents were moving around. There was a question about whether the president was going to make a speech to the nation from the school, or go over in front of Air Force One. The White House staff felt the quickest way was to just do that right there.

Matt, Adam, myself-we went out and got in our van in the motorcade. I had my BlackBerry with me and I would get some news, and Matt Kirk could get some news from his little pager, but it was limited. This was, say, 9:15 to 9:30. The president came out, got in his limousine, and then we just drove very rapidly over to the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport. The president got on the plane, and it took off about 10 o'clock. We were told to tighten up our seat belts very tight, because the plane has the ability to take off very steeply. When we took off, we were told there was no communication, because they didn't want anyone to know where Air Force One was, and the press was told that too.

In many ways, for most of that day, I had far less news and information than most of the people around the world. It was frustrating. You wanted to be able to flip between NBC or CBS or CNN. Air Force One did not have, at that time, the ability to pick up television. Matt Kirk would go up and try to talk to someone else and pick up some news. Somebody would come back and share some information. The president's political adviser, Karl Rove, came back a couple times, just giving us an update. It was very tense with the staff, because there obviously was a great security concern by the Secret Service and the crew.

"It's hard to comprehend that I was there on Air Force Once when this thing was evolving."


Around 10 o'clock, we were heading due north. And then, you could sense a turn to the west. I would say 10:45, maybe 10:30 or so, the plane changed course. We were told we weren't going back to Washington. We didn't know where we were going. I remember looking out my window and looking down at that Gulf Coast of the Alabama-Mississippi-Florida area.

We started to pick up some TV reception. We saw that the collapse of the towers had occurred. It was so surreal. I kept thinking of a Tom Clancy novel I remember reading, Debt of Honor, where they crash a 747 into the Capitol during a Joint Session of Congress. I thought of that book. I said, "Wait, this can't be some kid from Bradenton, Florida, on Air Force One. This isn't happening. It can't be. Am I dreaming or something?" I remember Karl Rove coming back and he said, "There are 40,000 people who are working at the World Trade Center at this time." No one knew the magnitude could have been that high. And then, to hear about the Pentagon!

About 11:30, we got called up to the president's office. It was Adam, Matt, and myself. The president was at his desk. They actually called in a photographer. There's a little sofa that can seat four or five people, and a chair where Andy Card sat. Behind us was this TV screen on the wall. I didn't even know it was there until I got the photograph, and you saw the World Trade Center, a fuzzy picture of it, right over our heads.

The president was telling us that there were some other planes-six, maybe nine, planes-that were unaccounted for, and that a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania, so the decision was made not to return to Washington. He was very serious, very determined, very focused, and very collected. And I felt much more emotional at that moment than he was. You saw he was in control. I felt choked up. It was almost like you're speechless.

He said he was determined to make sure that the people who were responsible for this would be identified and punished. There was speculation on the plane, but not with him, that it was bin Laden. The belief was, the only people capable of such an evil deed were either a government-and they didn't think it was any government behind this-or the bin Laden organization.

The president was saying, "We are going off to an undisclosed location." He was able to very calmly explain where we were and what we were getting ready to do. The only one speaking was the president. And I don't remember really even asking questions.

I remember saying as we were leaving, "God bless you, Mr. President." You could see the weight on his shoulders. He had been through a lot in those last couple of hours. And he obviously knew a lot more than we knew. He talked about how he had given the order-he actually said it had been while he was driving over from the school to Air Force One-to bring all the planes down from the air. He was saying how we had an AWACS and six fighters surrounding us. He was saying we were going to land at an undisclosed location, and that we would be getting off the plane there, and he was going on to another undisclosed location.

When we got to Barksdale Air Force Base, all you saw were just rows and rows of B-52 bombers. There was a van, a Humvee, there were people standing around with automatic weapons, which you don't see in the United States. We're seeing it today-but we did not see it until September 11. And you could see the president go out. We were left there on the plane. That's when we got good TV, from noon to 1:30. We could not have any contact-no cell phones or BlackBerrys. Then the president came back about 1:30. We exited the plane and stood there on the tarmac, and Air Force One took off.

I was able to call my wife, who was at home on Capitol Hill. The White House had called her and told her I was on Air Force One. I said something like, "Honey, I'm OK." I was able to tell her where I was and that there was another plane that was going to take us back to Washington. They flew us to Andrews Air Force Base, and I got home about 6 o'clock. We had to be about the only plane in the air, with the exception of the fighter planes, because everyone was grounded, I guess. I'll never forget the landing. You saw the Pentagon smoke.

I remember when I came home and walked in the house, it was very emotional. I hugged my wife. We just squeezed each other. It was hard to comprehend. I just didn't want to talk to anyone, besides my son and daughter, because it was just still so emotional. I choke up sometimes just talking about it. It's just hard to comprehend that I was right there on Air Force One when this whole thing was evolving. This was obviously the most significant event during my congressional career. You realize that the U.S. is vulnerable-that we're not immune to some of the problems elsewhere around the world, and it makes you think that life is very precious. I didn't know anyone personally who perished that day, but it brought that home to me.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

Want the news first every morning? Sign up for National Journal’s Need-to-Know Memo. Short items to prepare you for the day.

At the Pentagon

Lt. Cmdr. David Tarantino, U.S. Navy

I was in my office like any ordinary day. Then we started watching what was happening at the World Trade Center. Suddenly, we felt this shuddering, and the whole building shook-like an earthquake. I assumed it was part of whatever was going on in New York. My office was in the path of the aircraft, but it was in A Ring, so it stopped short. Immediately, there were orders to evacuate, but I'm a physician so I went to see if I could be of help. I only had to turn the corner. There was thick smoke and people emerging from it and they were saying, "There's more people in there." So we took paper towels, wet them, put them around our faces and went in, looking for people and guiding them out of the building to safety.

I was having trouble breathing, so I stepped into the open breezeway between C and B rings to get some fresh air. I saw these two holes where the aircraft had come through. You could see an aircraft tire that had come through three rings of the Pentagon, and there were charts and other stuff that was obviously from the aircraft. You could hear voices in there, and so a few of us grabbed fire extinguishers and went in. Even though we were spraying the extinguishers, it was getting hotter. I came across two people helping two others out of there, and they told me there was another guy farther in, trapped or something.

We went inside. By this time, your uniform was melting in the heat-the ceiling itself was melting and dripping on you. It was apocalyptic. Sparks were flying, the heat was getting worse, and you had to crawl to see and breathe-to get below this cloud of pure black, jet-fuel smoke. I saw Dave Thomas in this cave pulling at something. Then I saw Jerry Henson. It was clear to me he had head injuries and was having trouble breathing. It was like a blast furnace in there, and people outside were yelling at us, "Everybody out! It's going to go!"

"The ceiling itself was melting and dripping on you. It was apocalyptic. Sparks were flying."


I said to Jerry, almost out of frustration, "Let's go, man!" But he said, "I can't move." I didn't really want to go in there. I wanted him to come to me. But he wasn't going anywhere without help. So I crawled in. When I got to him, I couldn't see how he'd lasted this long. I could barely breathe and I'd only been in there a few seconds-he'd been in 20 minutes. The desk had turned over on him, pinning him down, and the whole cubicle was on top of that, and there were bookcases and part of the roof on top of that-and all of that stuff was on fire. I didn't know how I was going to lift all the rubble. In desperation, I lay on my back and started pushing with my legs. I used to be on the Stanford University crew team, and we did exercises like that; maybe that's how I got the inspiration.

Anyway, it moved the pile a little and while I was doing this, he grabbed my neck and arm, and I grabbed him and pulled him over me and Dave Thomas pulled him out. On the way out, I asked him if there were others. He thought there might be, so I held it a little longer and yelled, "Anybody in there?" I heard nothing. I couldn't hold it anymore, so I rolled over and let it down. Then I crawled out.

Thirty seconds later, the whole roof collapsed and that whole part of the building erupted in flames. So we got him out just in time. It was a miracle that we all ended up in the same place.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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Larry Downing
Reuters news photographer

I was assigned to the evening shift at the White House on September 11. I was going to leave the house at 11 a.m. I got this phone call from the office, and an editor said, "Larry, an airplane just hit the World Trade Center, and it appears to be a very large aircraft. Why don't you start heading downtown?" Just before I left the house, another phone call came and he said, "You better hurry up! Another aircraft has just hit the other World Trade Center tower."

I started racing. I live near the Vienna Metro, so it's about 13 miles. I thought it would be quicker to take surface streets and sort of weave my way downtown. I was listening to NPR and WTOP, trying to figure out what was going on. All of a sudden, I think it was WTOP that first said, "We have a report of an explosion at the Pentagon."

So I started driving a little quicker, cutting through back roads. As I got to Columbia Pike, there was a mass exodus coming away from the Pentagon and the Navy headquarters. People were on foot, and you could see the smoke rising. I stashed my car and grabbed my cameras and started running. Police officers were pushing people back; they were starting to put roadblocks up. I remember I wore my nice black loafers, which were not something I would use for hiking with all my camera gear. Perhaps because I was determined, I was never questioned, never challenged. I'll never forget it-I was the Invisible Man for an hour.

On Columbia Pike, there's a hotel, the Sheraton, and I tried to get up on the roof. I got all the way to the top, and the door was bolted. So I ran back down, cut across, and there's the Marine base, Henderson Hall area. There were already Marines with M-16s and their battle fatigues, and they'd taken their sentry positions. I went to the back of that area and jumped over this iron fence that attaches to Arlington Cemetery, and ran up on the hill.

Somebody had walked up to me when I was outside of the cemetery and said, "Don't you know, there's another airplane on its way inbound, and they think it's going to go toward the Capitol?"

It was really strange because you had all the headstones, and then you had military-type people who had appeared out of nowhere. People were staring in disbelief. One of the pictures that I photographed was the backs of the heads of all these Marines. They were watching their Pentagon, the center of their world, with fire still coming out of it. And it was very, very quiet.

I remember running on the hill, and because I had on my little black dress loafers, I kept slipping. When I finally got to a position, I moved to the west side as much as possible because there was so much black smoke, and there were some flames coming out of the gap from where the airplane had impacted with the Pentagon. And I kept going to the left of that, so I had a view of the Pentagon and the Capitol.

I was trying to maintain a professional composure, to stay on the target that had already been hit. If another aircraft was inbound, I wanted to be able to have a shot of the Capitol. I had a long lens. I set my exposure for what I thought would be a ball of fire.

I remember saying to myself, "Just stay on the Capitol." And my hands started shaking. I was an American at that point. I'm going, "My God! My country has just been attacked, and I don't know why."

"My God! My country has just been attacked, and I don't know why."


This went on for probably a minute or two. Someone said, "Oh, the plane is down; it's not inbound." And I saw an F-16 aircraft just scream over the top of the Pentagon. At that second I thought, "OK, everything is under control, nobody's going to get by these guys."

I looked at the Pentagon and walked up to these Marine officers and asked them, "Exactly where is the impact?" because I couldn't see anything. And this officer said, "It's right there! You can see the tail of the aircraft. It's right there!" He was excited and agitated. I picked up my camera and I couldn't see it. I think in his mind he had it etched that he could actually see the tail of the aircraft. But there was none. This plane just evaporated when it hit the building.

So I started shooting pictures, and rescue helicopters were flying through the image. Streaks of flame were coming up at one point, and then they're shooting water on them; the flames disappeared, and then more smoke would come out. I remember it was a very black smoke, and every once in a while, you could see just a patchwork of a very blue sky that would fade away.

I shot probably 22 or 23 frames. Now is the hard part-I've got to get out without getting stopped. I was thinking, "I'm on a military reservation. I trespassed. And now I have the images, but if I don't get them out, they are no good to anybody." I started walking away very quickly with my head down. I had the two disks that had my images on them, and I just slipped them down inside my sock into the shoe. I replaced the disks in the camera. If I had been stopped, I would have popped those out and said, "OK, I'm sorry, I didn't realize I was trespassing."

While I'm running out, I tried to make a phone call to the office, and there was no cell service whatsoever. I got back to my car. Everything was gridlocked going toward Washington, so I headed out to my house. I sat down and turned on the computer and moved five pictures immediately. I would say within five minutes of getting to the house, I had the first picture out. Then I called the office. I remember them saying, "We've been trying to get people to the Pentagon off the Washington side," and they couldn't get anybody over there. Had I been downtown, it never would have worked. It worked because I was the late guy and I was Mr. Invisible that day.

I raced my car to the Vienna Metro, and people were streaming out of the subway. There were only three people on the subway going back to Washington, and 23 minutes later I got off, and I was within a block of the White House. It worked flawlessly.

I went over to the White House, outside the perimeter, and they eventually walked us over to the FBI. People were commenting about how eerie it was-and how quiet.

Karen Hughes came out and said the president was safe; he was on Air Force One, and he would probably be coming back to the White House later on. I was in a little bit of shock at that point, because the magnitude of what had happened to the United States was just starting to settle into my brain-and the fact that I'd been to the impact site at the Pentagon, and now I was going to this White House briefing and was soon going to see the president and watch his reaction. It was a very large day for me. I called my wife from the FBI to let her know I was OK.

Maybe an hour or two later, they herded us over to the White House briefing room. And that's where we stayed the remainder of the day until the president briefed the nation in the evening. So we put those pictures out, and then I remember finishing up around 11 that night. And one of the other Reuters photographers gave me a lift.

I turned to my wife when I got home and said, "Throw these shoes away!" My feet were very sore. Later, I bought a very nice pair of brown steel-tipped boots and black construction boots, so that whatever happens, and wherever it happens, I could run through the mud and do whatever it takes.

My job is to see things for millions of people who don't have the opportunity to be in the front row. On most days, I can detach myself and say, "It's a news event." But this impacted me much, much more. I was an American first and a newsman second on that day.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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On Capitol Hill

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del.

I was, as usual, taking the train. I got almost to Baltimore and my wife called and said, "Joe, I'm looking at the TV. I'm looking at the TV. I can't leave the TV. A plane just crashed into the World Trade towers." I said, "Honey, was it an accident?" And she said, "I don't know." I am now calling my staff: "Is it an accident?" They don't know. The next thing, my phone rings and my wife says, "Oh, my God. A plane just went in the second tower."

Now, I am almost in Washington. I get off the train. It was a vivid memory. I walk outside and look over to the southwest, and there is this black plume of smoke. There are all kinds of rumors: a car bomb, and so on. Everybody is standing out in the park to the other side of the Russell Building. I said, "I am going to the floor." They said, "They won't let you on the floor." I said, "God damn it, we should not be out. We should be in session, people seeing us on the floor."

So I try to walk up the stairs of the Capitol, and a cop stops me. Just then a cop comes running through and says, "Senator, get out, evacuate the area, evacuate the area, incoming, incoming plane." I come running back here to make sure everybody was out of my office. The cop wouldn't let me in here. I said, "I'm going in anyway, it doesn't matter." And I came running down, and everybody was gone from the office.

I heard that some congressmen and senators were over at the police headquarters by the Monocle restaurant. I asked where Daschle was, where the leadership was. I got a private briefing upstairs. They had already briefed Daschle and others, and said they should go to a secure bunker. I called and said, "Tom, don't go. Don't do that. Stay here." He explained that he felt that since others were doing it, he was obliged to. He didn't think he should. Byrd refused to go, God love him, which I loved.

"I said, 'God damn it, we should not be out. We should be in session, people seeing us on the floor.' "

Congressman Brady and a couple of others agreed with me that we should go back into session and be seen. I raised that with 10 or 12 of my colleagues, and it fell on deaf ears. They didn't think it was a good idea. There were a lot of press outside that building. I came out and indicated that we should go back and that America should calm down.

Everybody was leaving, so I hitched a ride with Brady. About halfway between here and Baltimore, my cell phone rang, and it was the president of the United States. He called to thank me for standing tall. He just saw me on television. I asked, "Mr. President, where are you?" He said, "I'm on Air Force One." I said, "You comin' home?" He said, "No." I said, "Where are you going?" He said, "Undisclosed location." I said, "Mr. President, don't do that. Come home." He said, "The security people insisted that we do this." I said, "Mr. President, I can't second-guess them, but if I were you, I would look them in the eye and say, is there any real, compelling reason they think you are in danger? Because, otherwise, Mr. President, they are going to take you anywhere." I said, "Now is the time to be seen." He thanked me for my advice and we hung up.

And the next thing I knew, I was home. It's like 5:30 or 6:00. I had been running around the Capitol trying to get everybody to go back into session. Next thing I see, seven o'clock, a group of senators who had left or were going to leave, all back on the steps of the Capitol, and I am up in Wilmington.

Biden is currently vice president of the United States.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas

My day began quite routinely. I was in my office at 8 o'clock, drinking my coffee and eating a bagel. One of my top guys walked in and said someone had flown a plane into the first tower. Like so many other people, we watched on television as the other plane hit the second tower. Then the plane hit the Pentagon.

Someone made the decision that we should vacate the Capitol, and my security guys hustled us out of there. We got in the car and we couldn't communicate by cell phone, but we could communicate by BlackBerry. I reached the speaker and was able to discern that he was going to Andrews Air Force Base. We went there and were flown by helicopter to some undisclosed location. I still don't know where it was. I've never asked where it was. It's not information that I need to have.

We were escorted to an office, and we were impressed with how nice the office looked. The speaker asked me if I saw anything curious. I looked, and there was the presidential seal. Somebody had put us in there by mistake. The speaker called and said somebody had made a mistake, and we were moved to another room.

As time went on, other members of the House and Senate leadership arrived. We watched what we could on television and tried to determine how to get back to business. We were in constant communication with the president, the vice president, and the secretary of Defense.

"We were flown by helicopter to some undisclosed location. I still don't know where it was."


I don't think anyone was concerned about their party affiliation. Everyone knew that it was important that we maintain an atmosphere of unity. Nobody was panicky. It was all matter-of-fact and concern about what we could do to reconvene. We were concerned about where our people were. The best things we had were our internal beeper system and our BlackBerrys.

Later in the day, when we felt confident that any threat to the Capitol had dissipated, we decided to return. We were helicoptered to the Capitol lawn. The whole idea behind gathering on the Capitol steps was to tell the country: "Here we are. We're at work." We broke out into song-"God Bless America." It was a pretty remarkable thing. People commented that they saw Maxine Waters and I hugging. That's not so rare. We're good friends. We just don't agree on anything.

Everything was very businesslike. I think something about the gravity of the situation just sobered us up.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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Gene B. Sperling
Former economic adviser to President Clinton

I was at the Brookings Institution, preparing to go to the Hill for a 9:45 meeting with a senator in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Near the elevator, a colleague said, "A plane ran into the World Trade tower." I thought of a small commuter plane and wondered whether a lot of people-like meaning 20 or 25-had died. My first thought was of being a kid. When I was little, we used to go to the Empire State Building, and we were always kind of fascinated with the notion of planes and that building. Then I heard somebody say, "Another plane has hit the World Trade tower." At that moment, I instantly knew it was terrorism. But I still thought we were talking about small planes; I guess I had in my mind the plane that had tried to go into the White House one late night when I was there, a small plane. Downstairs, in the cab, was the first I heard that it was a 767.

"I just remember staring at Mrs. Clinton and seeing just the slight watering of her eyes."


I figured my meeting would be canceled but I ought to show up anyway. I was there a little early, and one of the senator's aides came out and said, "This is horrible. They may be getting briefings on this, so just hang here for a few minutes, but I think we'll have to reschedule."

At that moment, my cell phone went off and it was my older brother, Mike, who's an attorney in Milwaukee, and he wanted to make sure that I was in D.C., and not in New York. I hung up the phone, and the news suddenly said the Pentagon had been attacked. And at that moment, like a lot of people, I had no idea whether the White House or the Capitol or monuments or anything else might be attacked. My cell phone went off again. It was Mike again, and he said, "Get the hell out of there!" I said, "Bro', don't worry, I'm thinking just like you!"

So I went down on the street-the corner on the Union Station side-to try to find a cab. People were crowding into cabs, and hundreds of people seemed to come up. I'd only started walking, maybe 30 yards, when I heard a familiar voice yell, "Gene Sperling! Gene Sperling, get in the car!"

I looked up and I saw a silver car, and I was confused because all I could see were two large men in the front seat. And I finally saw that on the other side there was a woman yelling to me. It was Mrs. Clinton. I think they were less than thrilled that Mrs. Clinton was stopping at all; these are moments when the Secret Service has a mission to get her to a protected area. She asked me where I was going. I said Dupont Circle, but I could walk. She insisted I get in-it was right on the way.

It was a car ride I'll never forget. She was the first person I was really sharing this horrible, horrible day with. And you could see the different roles in her life. To the Secret Service, she was an ex-first lady. For herself, you could see her flipping back and forth between trying to be the best senator of a state that has just been terrorized, to a wife and a mother who's not satisfied by the 80 percent assurance that her daughter is OK and whose mind is racing, trying to figure out what close friends lived or worked near the World Trade Center.

I wanted to digest what we were hearing, but I also felt that old loyalty to be an adviser. And so her aide, Huma Abedin, and I were trying to place phone calls for Mrs. Clinton to different parts of the New York government, to the police department, to FEMA. Like everyone else, we were experiencing the frustration of the phones being jammed.

While we would be placing these calls, she would ask one more time about Chelsea. Huma kept telling her she was pretty sure Chelsea wasn't near the trade center. And Mrs. Clinton would seem satisfied for about 40 seconds, until she would spin out different scenarios: "Well, what if she came back? Or what if she went jogging?" Huma seemed to have some reason to believe that Chelsea was more midtown at that time. But, you know, telling a mother that you're 80 percent sure that her daughter is safe is not very satisfying.

One of the worst moments was when Mrs. Clinton turned to me and asked, "Gene, where does Nickie work? Where does Nickie work?" My heart just sank. Nicole Davison is a woman who interned for me at the National Economic Council, but was also Chelsea's best friend. And I felt horrible, because I knew Morgan Stanley, where she worked, had a big office in the trade center. I said, "I'm not sure." As it turned out, Nickie was in the midtown office, but I did not find out that she was OK until much, much later that day.

I was trying to be very functional, to think through different steps Mrs. Clinton might have to take-as I would have done during the eight years we were in the White House. For that 20-minute ride, I was, in a sense, one of only two aides able to help her think through, a little bit, the various actions and steps she might need to do during this completely unprecedented day. It was not that I had any special insight, but you want to try to have a level head.

For me, at that moment, I was more struck by the horror of the overall situation. There was a feeling that there were just thousands and thousands of people who were going to be dead, and that inevitably, there would be people that you knew. A couple people who crossed my mind were close friends, a judge at the 2nd Circuit, and another friend from law school, who worked for the New York legal defender. They were evacuated, but were OK. Plus, you still didn't know whether this was the end or just somewhere in the middle of this attack. There were still a lot of rumors at that point. There was a rumor that the State Department and Old Executive Office Building had been hit.

Around 11th or 12th Street we came to a light, and suddenly the guy on the radio started saying, almost like you were listening to the "War of the Worlds" tape: "Oh my God, the World Trade tower has just collapsed! Oh my God, the World Trade tower has just collapsed! Oh my God, the World Trade tower has just collapsed!" It was unimaginable. And that was the moment when the car just went silent. And I just remember staring at Mrs. Clinton and seeing just the hint of-just the slight watering of her eyes. It was unfathomable that it had collapsed. To hear a radio announcer in hysterics and try to imagine it was even more horrific than when I actually watched the second one collapse, live, on TV. We rode for a couple of blocks, I think, stunned, before conversation continued. I remember saying, "This is like Pearl Harbor." She said, "It's worse. It's worse."

I hopped out a couple of blocks past Brookings. I think we just clutched arms, and I said, "Whatever I can do, let me know." And Mrs. Clinton was just very motherly: "Take care of yourself. Be careful."

When I went back up to Brookings, I had a very eerie memory. Twenty years before, I had been at Brookings as a research assistant, and I watched the Air Florida crash on a black-and-white TV in the office. There was a camera covering it live, but they had no sound. And you literally watched the hook come down and rescue people, and then you saw a man who didn't seem to be able to get up; you saw some people fall, and the notion that you were watching some survive and some people die right in front of your eyes-it just brought back that horrible moment. It was one of the most haunting things I ever witnessed in my life at that time. In my Brookings office, I saw the second tower collapse.

I did not feel the tears until later, when they started showing the people in New York looking for their family members, and I saw this mother and two daughters looking around for their dad.

There used to be times at the White House when I would come down at night and see Sandy Berger and think to myself that as weighty as the economic issues were that we were dealing with, that, you know, how truly heavy must be the weight when the decisions you're making can have a direct impact on life and death. So I felt enormous empathy for the people in the White House that day. While I had not experienced anything like that in my eight years, I could imagine the sense of responsibility everybody there would feel, and how all-consuming this must have been.

Sperling is director of the National Economic Council in the Obama administration.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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At the White House

Mary Matalin
Assistant to the president
Counselor to the vice president


I was standing at the vice president's outer desk-this oft-told story-and the Secret Service swept in and carried him away. Nobody knew what to do. Then we got evacuated to the mess. I was not freaked out by this, but then all the mess people were getting evacuated out of the building. So I just went with that crowd, and that's the crowd that was saying, "Run, run, run! A plane is going to hit the White House!"

I was going to a labor meeting that day, so I had dressed up in my one good outfit and these hideous high heels. Just walking in those shoes and that skirt was a nightmare. I thought, "Well, I should go home to work; I'm not going to be able to work here." I stepped in front of a cab and said, "Take me to Virginia," and the guy jumped out, left the car running, left the door open, and just started running. And I looked around-cars were all just stopped, and no phones worked, and it was like The Day After.

Then out of nowhere, my cell phone rings, and it was the President's Emergency Operations Center saying, "The vice president wants you now. Where are you? You've got to get back here!" I go running back in those high heels from hell, and get to the Pennsylvania Avenue gate, and there were guys with guns: "You can't go there! You can't go there!" I'm not usually one to fight with men with guns, so I put whoever that person was from the bunker on the phone with the guy with the gun, and still there was much confusion, and finally that guy on the phone convinced the guy with the gun to escort me to the next guy with a gun-and I'm not talking about water pistols here. So, they finally escorted me all along this labyrinth, and it occurred to me then, if I hadn't thought it was serious earlier, that something very, very globally serious was going on.

I walked right into the midst of the vice president saying, "How should we make a public statement?" He was very firm that the president should do it. Did we have ideas? And my construct was that: A) The government was attacked; B) the government exists still; and C) the military has been deployed, and the civil defense is on duty. Whatever else you wanted to say, those were the things they needed to know, first and foremost. So he was then on the phone with the president talking about that.

Then I tried to get ahold of my kids and my husband. I called his office and said to his staff, "Take two cars, get two kids, and bring them to one place. Do it! Do it! I don't know what's going on, and I'm not going to be able to call you back. Tell James I'm safe."

Then I tried to go back to work. There are two video functions in the bunker. One is the teleconferencing, and off to the side was this big-screen TV. But there was some technical problem: You could only have the sound on one or the other. The vice president obviously wanted to keep talking to the Pentagon, but then he couldn't hear what was on CNN. He just demanded that it get fixed, now. How could it not work? It was as mad as I'd ever seen him up to that point.

Once you are underground, then you're underground-totally at the mercy of what was running on CNN. It wasn't a chaotic situation, but it was a cacophony of information. For some reason, we all were looking at the TV when the second tower fell. It was some kind of pivotal moment, which to this day I can't articulate. I don't think we worked any differently before or after it, but it was unimaginable. I don't ever remember being scared, except for my kids.

When the president got to Offutt, he and the vice president were teleconferencing and the vice president was saying, "I'm about to brief the leadership." And the president filled the screen-he leaned into the screen and he said, "Make sure you tell them that this is the focus of my administration, and we're going to get these guys!" You could have heard a pin drop. That was the first time that we'd seen him. It was an emotional turning point. We felt more oriented, and connected, not so cut adrift. It was like we were all now in one place.

An embarrassing moment: Karen Hughes and I wanted to do something with the press. I said, "Let's bring the press back in." And the Secret Service would not let the press back in the grounds. I guess they thought the White House was still a target. And I just lost it, and I started screaming: "We have to talk to America! This is ridiculous!" I wasn't trying to not protect the press, but I made a scene, which I immediately regretted.

So then Karen and I were kind of like, "Where can we go that we have a press facility?" And I'm like, "Well, I'm not going anywhere in these high heels!" Someone figured out that we could be driven to the FBI, which is where we ended up for the statement. Karen was uncharacteristically nervous. I held her then: "Breathe! Breathe! You'll be great." She took a deep breath and steeled her shoulders, and she went out there and she was great. Then we came back to the bunker.

The next day, with 10 minutes' notice, some staff got evacuated and moved to the first of the undisclosed secure locations with the vice president. It felt more like a campaign to me-you just collapse into bed at night and have a coma sleep. When we were at this location, while I was working, we were kind of in a netherworld. Late one night, I turned on the TV. All this stuff was happening out there in the real world, on this little, teeny screen, and we were so removed from it, and yet so working on it; and I remember sitting on the end of the bed, and it hit me: Real people died. I just sat there and I did cry. I wasn't sad; I wasn't angry. I was like, this doesn't happen in civilization.

That Sunday night I asked the senior staff, "Was someone going to tell us how to talk to our kids? What should we say?" I thought our circumstances would require particular tutelage in how to speak to our children. It was my then-6-year-old, Matty, who said, "Mommy, I think we should"-I cry when I talk about this-"I think we should pray for Osama bin Laden." I just did what I'm doing now; I couldn't even speak. She said, "He's just a sad person and he's very sick, and we need to pray for him." And I remember thinking, where does this child get this gift? That came from something inside her.

 

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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Noelia Rodriguez
Press secretary to first lady Laura Bush

It was such a beautiful day. We were getting ready to leave the White House. Mrs. Bush was going to the Capitol that morning to brief the Senate Education committee on the findings of the Early Childhood Cognitive Development Summit we'd held at Georgetown University in July. Senator Kennedy was really interested in that-he'd attended the session.

I was waiting for Mrs. Bush by the motorcade behind the White House. Sandra Sobieraj of AP was walking by with her cell phone in her ear. She said, "Noelia, all I can say is that your boss's comments better be pretty spiffy because there's a plane accident in New York City." She wasn't being flippant as much as letting me know something else was happening. This visit to the Capitol was big news-or so we thought. The first lady hadn't been up there to do this before, and the former first lady, Senator Clinton, was going to attend. I looked at the Secret Service agent standing beside me, and we both kind of arched an eyebrow and went back into the White House to turn on the television. Somebody said something about a helicopter, but it didn't look like a helicopter was what hit the building. Then we got the cue that Mrs. Bush was coming downstairs, and we went to meet her. Her lead agent told her a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Her aide Sarah said, "I wonder if this means Senator Clinton won't be at the hearing, because she'll probably have to go to New York."

"What seemed like two dozen of these ninja guys surrounded the [first lady's] car."


Mrs. Bush's limo and motorcade left the White House at 9:07. We didn't know it, but by then the second plane had struck. I rode in the staff van. My deputy was in the press van, and as we headed to Capitol Hill she called me and said, "A second plane hit the World Trade Center!" Our van got really quiet. When we arrived at the Capitol at 9:16, I jumped out and ran to the limo and got inside. The agents had already told the first lady. Senator Kennedy came to meet her. He seemed concerned, but stayed calm and focused. I thought it was a very gracious gesture on his part to meet Mrs. Bush. We all went into his office. Senator Judd Gregg came in. Nobody could get a cell to get through, and we took turns using the office phone. Senator Kennedy's dog Splash was there, and I remember everybody petting the dog. His presence, the normalcy of a pet, seemed to have a soothing effect on everyone.

At some point, Mrs. Bush talked to the president. She didn't want to say anything publicly until the president spoke to the nation, but we didn't know when that would be. Karen Hughes wasn't in the office and she wasn't with the president, so I talked to her assistant. "The president is going to be on television in 15 seconds," she said. We watched him, and then Mrs. Bush and I went to a private room in Senator Kennedy's office, and we began writing down what she should say. She wanted to reassure everybody, and we wanted everyone to pray for those in New York. We didn't know about the Pentagon, so we addressed our comments to the people of New York. When we went to the press, Larry McQuillan of USA Today asked, "Is there a message you could tell to the nation's children?" and that's when Mrs. Bush said, "Parents need to reassure their children everywhere in our country that they're safe." That's what people remember her for that day.

We then went to Senator Gregg's office. My worry was the pool reporters. It's funny what you think about in an emergency. We put them all in a room, and the agents said to me, "We have to leave here-and we can't take them with us." Larry said, "Don't worry about us." We left the Capitol at 10:10. Mrs. Bush had a lot of staffers there and some of us were in the limo, which was parked in the portico at the Capitol, and we were talking excitedly: "What could this be? Where are we going? What's next?"-just chatter, you know. Then the driver said something like, "Ladies, this is a time to pay attention." He meant it was a time to be quiet. I think he wanted to hear the instructions he was getting in his earpiece. Just then, what seemed like two dozen of these ninja guys surrounded the car-Secret Service agents all dressed in black. Mrs. Bush then got in the car, and they took us to the "secure location" you've heard about. In the car, we seemed to be going in slow motion. On the way there, we asked, "Why today?" I remember saying, the only thing I can think of is 9/11, you know 9-1-1. We were just trying to make it all reasonable. But it wasn't. There was nothing reasonable about it.

When we got to the secure location, Mrs. Bush told us, "Find phones, get hold of your families, and let them know you are OK." I couldn't reach my mom in Los Angeles, but I did finally reach my brother in Brownsville, Texas, and told him to call Mom. Many of the women on our staff are quite young. Some were crying; others, you could see the shock on their faces. Mrs. Bush was worried about them. She was trying to show by example that everything was going to be OK. She was also concerned about the staff we'd left behind at the White House.

About 1:30 p.m., we were escorted back to the White House to get our purses and keys. And we got the pets, Spot, Barney, and I think India came too. She's the cat. That was the first time I felt afraid. I remember seeing a couple of empty strollers near the East Wing entrance. They must have belonged to visitors who were on a White House tour that morning. It showed how fast they must have evacuated the place. To us, the agent said, "Be fast. Run. Get your things." Later, I found out that when they evacuated the White House, one of the uniformed agents yelled at them, "Take your shoes off and run!" This whole thing was hard on some of these young women. It's pretty heady stuff-you work at the White House, then one day, without warning, you're being told to take off your shoes and run for your life! My deputy left after that, she moved back to California.

Anyway, we went back to where Mrs. Bush was. At about 4:30 p.m., we returned to the White House one final time that day. After we showed our IDs, the agent said, "Thank you, ladies, have a nice day!" I know it's just an automatic response, but it didn't make sense. I said, "I think it's too late for that." Then it was time to go home. Most of us had cars, but I take the subway to work-the Orange Line. I didn't want to go underground. Who knew what was coming next? But I did it. I remember that the people on the subway were very quiet. The other thing I remember about that day is how beautiful it was. It didn't make sense that this would happen on such a beautiful day.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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Around Washington

John D. Ashcroft
Attorney general

As I recall, it was a very nice day. We left Washington relatively early, in one of the smaller aircraft that's provided for travel for Cabinet officials. We had just crossed western Michigan, maybe breaking out over Lake Michigan, on our way to Milwaukee. I pointed it out to the staff, and I said, "There's Grand Rapids." I have a particular affection for Grand Rapids, Michigan, because the river comes right through the middle of town. If you go there, you see people fishing right in the middle of the city.

We were just a little past that when we received word, from either the pilot or some of the security people on the plane, that we should place a call back to the Command Center of the Justice Department. I don't remember who I talked to. I was told that the towers had been hit. I immediately made the response, "We need to get back to Washington." But, apparently, we had inadequate fuel to turn around in the air. I turned to the staff and said, "Our world has changed forever."

We landed in Milwaukee. And, literally, you could see the world was different. It was just the kind of security surrounding the plane. We had the refueling operation. We weren't aware of the full extent of the tragedy, and we weren't sure whether we could come back. After we were back in the air, we spent some time in a holding pattern until we could be attended by a military fighter jet. I believe I said, "We have to be prepared to act and to protect America in whatever way possible and to resolve and curtail this disaster."

"The president made it very clear ... that he didn't want this ever to happen again."


The first sight of the city was the smoke rising from the Pentagon. That's a very, very distressing thing. It's not only the nation's capital, but the headquarters of our ability to defend ourselves. And it had been struck.

I was not yet aware of the complete details of the disaster of the Pentagon. [He points to a photo taken during his confirmation hearing; it includes Barbara Olson, wife of Solicitor General Ted Olson.] Barbara was on the plane and had called her husband twice from the plane. We were with the Olsons-less than a week before-at their home. We lost a very good friend, and Ted lost a wonderful, wonderful wife.

I'm not sure just when I heard about Barbara's death. You know, there was this litany of calamities. There were lots of things going through my mind. You're trying to assess how to respond-what can be done, how to limit the potential of additional harm. I was interested in where my wife was. When I landed, she was there to meet me.

I immediately went to the Strategic Information Operations Center. We were working on gathering as much information as possible about any airplanes that were still question marks. Those early moments were filled with con- ference calls-identifying passenger lists, identifying who might have been responsible on the airplanes for this kind of tragic activity, trying to answer questions that we had ourselves about what actually had happened. I stayed there for the next 60 days, practically. I wouldn't spend a day in the Justice Department for at least two months.

The president made it very clear in the earliest moments of my opportunity to meet with him that he didn't want this ever to happen again. He let me know that that was a substantial charge to me-that I should do everything possible that this should never happen again. Every once in a while, you find yourself lapsing back into pre-9/11 sort of thoughts, and that's good. We want to return to normal, but we never want to let our guard down.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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Maj. Kirk Pierce, D.C. National Guard
Pilot, United Airlines

It was the last day of a trip. I was supposed to get back to New York on the 11th and come home. Vancouver to San Francisco, San Francisco to Newark, and then I would be done.

We had a 6 a.m. Pacific departure. We had just taken off. Everything was going great.

We were over top of Seattle, at 23,000 to 25,000 feet, and one of the Horizon Air pilots-that's a commuter airline-asked why the Seattle-Tacoma Airport was on a "ground stop." Usually that only occurs if there's really bad weather. It was gorgeous.

About two minutes later, Seattle Air Traffic Control came on the air. We're being diverted to Portland: "Don't ask questions, pull out your charts, and land immediately." I go to the captain, "Are they kidding?" He looked at me. Total confusion.

What they said was, a plane had hit the World Trade Center. They thought a bomb had gone off at the State Department, that another plane or a helicopter had hit the Pentagon, and that there were several aircraft on the East Coast that were unaccounted for. It got your blood going.

The good thing is, you're trained to do this. You compartmentalize. Specifically, fighter pilots do, because we're a little different. We do so much multitasking. All we had to worry about right now was, land the plane. Compartmentalize, and deal with it later.

While I was doing that, I got a message from United world headquarters saying, "Things are real bad. We have two or three United planes that are not in contact."

We didn't know it was terrorism yet. The big thing was, we didn't want to get everybody upset. We tried to keep it short and sweet. We told the passengers, "We've been advised by air traffic control that we need to land. There's nothing wrong with the airplane."

"I wanted to get back, I wanted to be helping out the team. I wanted to be protecting the capital."


As soon as we landed, we went down to the United area underneath the terminal. And that's when we saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I'm pretty sure it was a replay. We knew it was a United plane. Just looking at it, we could tell the color, we could tell the tail. So we were just sitting there, totally in shock.

We got rooms, because things were starting to fill up quick. We went to the hotel, and that was weird. You'd walk down the hall and every room had some news channel on. I went from confusion to being pissed off. Also feeling kind of helpless.

I wanted to get back, I wanted to be helping out the team, I wanted to be protecting the capital. Eventually, I found out that United had a 747 chartered to try to get everybody back in position. All our aircrews were in the wrong places. They put me on there as a "national asset."

My wife picked me up at Dulles on Friday, the 14th. I came in that night and flew combat air patrol over D.C. until 3:30 a.m. I could sit there with the target finder and look at my house. The Pentagon was still burning.

Conducting the interviews were National Journal staff members James A. Barnes, David Baumann, Carl M. Cannon, Richard E. Cohen, Courtney Crimmins, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Robert Gettlin, Siobhan Gorman, Erin Heath, Corine Hegland, Louis Jacobson, James Kitfield, Margaret Kriz, Neil Munro, Mark Murray, Molly C. Norton, Patrick B. Pexton, Marilyn Werber Serafini, Alexis Simendinger, Bruce Stokes, Peter H. Stone, Stuart Taylor Jr., Kirk Victor and Shawn Zeller.

This interview originally appeared in the August 31, 2002 edition of National Journal.

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Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Owensboro, KY
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Binghamton, NY
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Waipahu, HI
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Alpena, MI
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Freeport, ME
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Claremont, NH
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Bremerton, WA
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | DuBois, PA
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Dubuque, IA
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Bangor, ME
Outside Sales Representative
National Federation of Independent Businesses | Yuma, AZ
 
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