Sept. 11, 2001, is etched into the souls of all Americans. That morning, first responders became warriors in the face of multiple disasters.
When the first plane hit the World Trade Center, many thought it was a horrible accident. When the second plane hit, we realized this was an attack on our country. Later, another plane crashed into the Pentagon and the fourth plane, Flight 93, crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Speculation is that this plane was intended to attack the White House or the Capitol.
No one knew at this point that hundreds of first responders would be called into action. From the largest fire department in America (Fire Department of New York) to a small volunteer department in Shanksville Pennsylvania, fire and EMS went into action.
In Northern Virginia, the responding fire departments closed ranks and operated as one response agency.
American Airlines flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon’s west side. It penetrated three rings of the building. This building was built like a fortress. No one would have guessed that within two hours of the crash, one whole section would collapse.
Arlington County Fire Department responded and began the arduous task of fighting the fire, rescuing victims and searching for additional victims. Fire and emergency medical personnel from Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Reagan National Airport responded with many on-duty personnel.
This operation was hindered by the massive area of the Pentagon. Approximately 189 people died in the attack and many more were injured, physically and emotionally.
People were pouring out of the building trying to find safety. Many were injured and needed treatment. Regional response agencies dispatched many medic units and other mass causality equipment. Television reports showed survivors running away from the crash site.
It was chaos, but eventuality the Arlington County Fire Department gained control of the incident. That control lasted about four days and then the FBI was in command.
On a trip, I met a doctor from Atlanta. After some conversation he asked me if I had responded to the Pentagon? I said yes, but not until the second day. I saw some sadness in his face. He said his sister worked at the Pentagon and died when the plane hit her office. He said she took a direct hit.
Between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., many responders were at the scene’s horrendous events. They performed their sworn duties knowing that they may not go home. First responders would tell you they are not heroes; they were just doing their jobs! And thankfully, they did an outstanding job and should be remembered.
We should all stop and say “thank you” to the first responders and remember those who perished that day.