From the first televised images to the heroic “let’s roll!” those of us who were of age remember where we were and the shock of the evil that attacked our country 20 years ago today.
Following are the memories of my brother Danny, who was working near the Pentagon that day. I had never heard his entire story and part of it brought me to tears. Danny is a man of character. I am proud to call him my brother. These are his memories as he wrote them.
Stand By – Meetings Postponed
On the morning of 9/11/2001 and in Skyline-1 of the Skyline Office Complex, my TMA support teammates and I had seen the pictures and reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NY. It was time for us to make our way to Skyline-6 for a meeting with your client in TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) Information Management (IM). We discussed what we had seen about the World Trade Center as we walked through the underground and then as we sat waiting in one of TMA’s Skyline-6 conference rooms. The meeting time came and passed. We waited. We got word that due to ongoing events and uncertainty of what was going on, our meeting would be postponed until another time. Then …
TMA Skyline Offices Shook (Pentagon Hit)
Skyline-6 shook. Our TMA client (a Navy Captain physician) came into the conference room and told us, “The Pentagon has just been hit”. From his office windows, we could see the smoke rising from the Pentagon. Unknown at that time if other Government buildings or offices would be targets. “We’re evacuating. Everyone out of the building.”
Evacuating Skyline Office Complex
We were on an upper floor of Skyline-6 in the TMA Information Management (IM) office space. There were multiple elevators that serviced Skyline-6 which, of course, were all turned off (shut down) during emergency evacuation. Dave Oris (fully wheelchair bound and dependent) was in the elevator lobby and obviously not able to go down stairs … much less many floors of stairs. I told Dave I’d stay with him until we could get someone strong enough to carry him down without his motorized wheelchair. As many people ran past us and into the stairwells, a much younger and stronger young man (I don’t know his name) came by and asked if he could help. “Do you know how to do a fireman’s carry?” Yes! He lifted Dave up onto his shoulders and I went ahead of them to serve as an icebreaker to clear a path through the many people running, pushing, and elbowing their way down the stairs. That strong, young man carried Dave all the way down those many flights of stairs without stopping, and we got Dave down to the basement parking level entrance that faced Rt7 (Leesburg Pike). Dave had already called family to pick him up, and the young man and I stayed with Dave until his ride arrived. Whoever that young, strong man was … he was a hero that day. He kept his head about him and used his strength to carry Dave to safety.
TMA Skyline Parking Garage Chaos
People react to crises differently (an understatement). After we got out of the Skyline Office Complex buildings and were at rallying points in the parking lot, we were told to make our way home. For some of us, our cars were in underground parking … and mine was under Skyline-1. Like with the people pushing and elbowing down the stairwells; I again saw panic on peoples’ faces and in their eyes as they tried to get out of the underground parking. Some people were making lanes where there were no lanes. Some were so focused on getting out that they cut off other drivers and forced their way ahead. One person I remember seeing didn’t look left or right, didn’t consider other drivers around her, but she kept her eyes focused on the exit opening of the garage … she was going to get out no matter what.
People Walking on 395
Once out of Skyline parking and over to 395 south; the scene was very much from an end-of-times movie. Highway 395 was almost without cars, and there were some people walking on the shoulders of the highway. I learned later that day that my daughter-in-law, who was working for the Navy in Chrystal City, had driven through the smoke that was blowing across 395 from the Pentagon.