That morning started so beautifully. I woke up in a really good mood (unusual for the Pentagon). I got into work and was told that we had x-amount of funds left and needed to make last minute office supply purchases. At 9:10 I had to escort one of my coworkers to our storage room in the B ring on the first floor in the newly rennovated wedge. After that I went back up-stairs to my office and checked my email. My mom had sent me a message at 9:17 saying that both of The World Trade centers have been hit by airplanes and they were going to collapse, and to be careful. I responded with “I love you” just in case anything were to happen, because I know when my mom gets a gut feeling I should probably listen to it.
I started to try to go to CNN.com and see what news stories were there but I couldn’t get to any of the web pages, I chalked it up to network problems and went about my normal business. I heard some of my coworkers on the other side of the partition trying to set up a TV with antenna access but due to the Concrete walls of the building that was to no avail. I proceeded to call one of our vendors and inquire about prices for some printer parts that would be needed within the next couple of weeks and half way through the conversation with him I heard a very loud boom, kind of like someone dropping a large piece of furniture on the floor above me. The noise didn’t phase me though because the offices above me were doing some minor rennovations and I knew they were moving furniture in and out. But what really go my attention was the floor sliding underneath my desk and chair. Then I heard people running Through the hallways pounding their feet on the ground and some of them screaming. I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. So I hung up with the vendor and poked my head out into the hallway. I saw people running with a look of terror in their faces, when my Leiutenant started walking out of the restroom. She was carrying a coffee pot she had just filled with water to make the morning coffee. She asked in general to anyone who would answer “What’s going on” and someone shouted “It’s a bomb, get out of the building!” Immediately my Leiutenant told me to get everyone in my section out of the office and get out of the building and stay together. So I immediatly spun around on my heels and told everyone to get out of the building. We ran down to the stairs in the first corridor at the A ring. I could see through the glass doors into the courtyard and up above was a large plume of fire and black smoke rising quickly into the sky. We made it into corridor 2 headed towards the exit but it was such a gridlock of people trying to escape that we wound up walking out of the exit. I remember it being very quiet. Only a few people were talking on the way out, mostly things like “What’s going on?” “Was it an airplane?” and some blind speculation about other places.
Finally we got outside of the exit doors, just to see the large plume of fresh smoke drifting and starting to angle it’s self towards the exit and sink lower. The smell was one of the worst things I can describe. We got off of the bridge and down into the parking lot. There were many cleaning people who had a hard time walking so some people brought chairs with them from their offices and helped the cleaning personnel get out of the building more quickly. We made our way to the grass by the overpass and we heard a man talking on a cell phone saying that the White House was hit and the State Departement had a carbomb go off in front of it. (Thankfully none of those things happened.) It was so surreal though I just kept thinking to my self “This isn’t really happening.”
I found a few more of my office members wandering around and we started to group together and write our names down on post-it notes that someone happend to bring out with them as a roll-call.
We were all standing around when we saw off to our left (we were still facing the south side of the building watching the smoke rise from the western side) The mass of people gathered on the hill start running like a flock of birds changing direction towards us. Then the cop that was near us told us to run under the overpass to the other side of the highway. So I made sure everyone followed.
It was starting to get warm outside probably around 80 degrees. We were trying to decide how we were going to get back to Ft. Myer and we decided to go to our warehouse in Pentagon City to try and call our families. There was a bit of a line to use the 3 phones available in the office but we made it and tried to call our parents. It was probably around 10:00 at this point. I didn’t have a watch on me to check. Luckily since the phones were on the pentagon system they were all free so we were able to get through to most everyone. My parents had gone to get my brothers from school and so I left a voice mail on their phone. I then tried my grandma and got ahold of her and she started to cry, I told her to let everyone know I’m ok and that I loved them all.
That day will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. I get choked up everytime I see the images on tv or read some of the stories of survivors who lost people. 189 lives were lost that day in the plane crash of flight 77 into the Pentagon. 3000+ more in the attacks on New York, NY. Millions of lives were forever changed that day. I personally did not lose anyone I knew or was related to in the attacks on the Pentagon, World Trade Centers, or Somerset County Pennsylvania but I will forever feel like I lost my entire family. I hope this story has helped anyone understand a little bit better what most people at the Pentagon experienced that horrific day. Thank you and God Bless America.
Airman First Class Daimeon Pilcher, USAF