Chris Granger was four years into his career as a Prince William County firefighter and medic on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Arlington County Fire Department urgently called neighbor departments for more ambulances.
The television in Fire Station 12 in Woodbridge still showed the smoking Twin Towers standing when Granger and his partner sped out and up Interstate 95. On the radio, they were told to head to Arlington Fire Station 1 on Glebe Road, a mile from the inferno at the Pentagon.
“It was wall-to-wall ambulances,” said Granger, now a Prince William County Fire & Rescue Department battalion chief and a Fauquier County supervisor.
With nearly all Arlington’s trucks and ambulances already at the Pentagon, the Prince William team and the rest were dispatched to answer other, routine emergency medical calls that morning.
But in the afternoon, they joined the search and recovery effort inside the still-burning Pentagon.
“They put together groups of 10 of us to systematically search the place and clear the building of people. That’s what the fire department does – clear out buildings,” he said.
Each group included someone familiar with the massive structure. Maps showed the corridor they were to search. The air was heavy with the fumes of jet fuel.
Granger’s team went down the corridor between the C and B rings (A is the innermost) to where the shattered cockpit of the Boeing 757 had made its deepest penetration.
“Everybody knew what it was,” said Granger. He got home at 1 a.m. on Sept. 12, but was sent back up early the next morning.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 12, Granger watched a crew of fire fighters and soldiers unfurl a huge American flag from the roof of the Pentagon near its gaping, smoldering wound. He was still outside when suddenly “there was a lot of commotion and before you know it, there’s George W. Bush, right in front of me.”
The president shook the hands of rescue workers, including Granger’s, and said, “I am so grateful to the people who are working here” and at Ground Zero in New York City, which he would visit two days later.
“Our country,” he said, will “not be cowed by terrorists … willing to destroy people’s lives because we embrace freedom.”
Granger captured photos on a disposable camera, but never saw them. The FBI confiscated it.