Blue skied and clear….but the billowing smoke from the towers which ranged far and wide from the impacted world trade towers 1 and 2 wouldn’t be readily seen from the view of Fort Myer Fireman Al Wallace where he was sitting in Arlington, Virginia, Wallace along with Mark Skipper and Dennis Young raced to the Pentagon and get the helipad ready for the Presidents return back from Sarasota, Florida. Chief Charles Campbell, Fort Myer fire chief, calls the station to remind the trip if they are aware of what is happening in New York. Campbell bemoans over the phone to Wallace:
“These were intentional acts of terrorism! Be on your toes. There could be more attacks. If it had happened in New York, it could happen in Washington.”
Even thou the suspicion is there that an attack could be met at the Pentagon, there are no warnings to any Pentagon employee and no evacuation is applied. The excitable members of Ft.Myer arrive at the helipad at the Pentagon manning the foam rig, Truck 161, getting it ready for the day.
As the firemen man the rig unknowing about what was to happen upon them in a mere one minute later, many just one mile away noticed the rapidly descending American Airlines aircraft. Arlington County Police Department Corporal Barry Foust is stopped at traffic lights less than two miles from the Pentagon. Foust hears a low, sounding roar of jet engines. He opens up the window and sees a Boeing flying very low heading towards the Pentagon. Police Motorcycle Officer Richard Cox is standing near a diner less than a mile from the Pentagon.
Hearing a sudden roar, he turns and reportedly sees the plane “directly overhead… no more than a hundred feet off the ground.” Fire Captain Steve McCoy and his crew are traveling north on Interstate 395 in ACFD Engine 101, for a training session in Crystal City. McCoy reportedly sees “a commercial airliner in steep descent, banking sharply to its right before disappearing beyond the horizon,” Officer Mark Bright of the Defense Protective Service (DPS) — the Pentagon’s police force — is manning the security booth at the Pentagon’s Mall entrance, when he hears a loud noise. He will recall:
“I saw the plane at the Navy Annex area [a few hundred yards from the Pentagon]. I knew it was going to strike the building because it was very, very low — at the height of the street lights.”
As soon as he sees it hit the Pentagon he radius in his report of the attack, and then speeds in his police cruiser to the crash site, becoming the first officer there.
9:35am, Pentagon heliport…..Al Wallace starts truck 161 and decides to pull the fire truck out of the fire station and place it in a position more accessible to the heliport landing pad. Wallace parks it about 15 feet from the Pentagon’s west wall, facing toward the landing pad. Dennis Young hears a distant roar which sounded more like an incoming, barreled train. Wallace out of the rig finds himself staring down the Boeing plane…which is straight at him. It is about 25 feet off the ground, with no landing wheels visible, a few hundred yards away, and closing fast. He runs about 30 feet and dives under a nearby van. Dennis Young and Mark Skipper react immediately and take cover. “I started running away; I totally forgot about Skipper,” Wallace said. “I felt like I was on fire.” Wallace had quickly positioned himself under a nearby van pared by the heliport when he heard the ear splitting sound of the ensuing explosion from the planes impact into the West wall of the Pentagon. The impact was at 9:36am. Meanwhile Pentagon Police radios had begun to sound the alarm, that the hijacked flight had crashed into the Pentagon.
Wallace removed himself from under the van where he stated would have left him burning alive from the heat of the blast. he decided to move the foam rig, truck 161, to better position it to battle the fire. What Wallace did not know at the time was that the back of the truck was engulfed in flames. Mark Skipper was outside the truck and told Wallace the rig was not operational due to the fire. “Once we realized the truck was obviously not operational, we shifted to (emergency medical services) mode,” said Skipper. “There were so many people trapped in the building, we began helping with evacuations.” The truck damage from the Pentagon attack has been intentionally left in place, as a reminder.
According to the ASCE Pentagon Building Performance Report there were two holes visible in the Pentagon immediately after the impact a 75-ft.-wide entry hole in the building’s exterior wall (show pentagon entry hole) and a 12-ft.-wide hole in Ring C (show Ring C hole), the Pentagon’s middle ring which was from the landing gear going thru the wall and not the fuselage. Navy command center Lt. Kevin Shaffer in his search and rescue of the building noticed a chunk of the aircraft’s nose and landing gear in the service road located in the B and C rings. On Sept 14th, Fairfax Urban Search and Rescue Virginia Task Force 1 Carlton Burkhammer and Brian Moravitz observed an intact seat from the cockpit. On September 14th at 3:40am the flight data recorder boxes for flight 77 were recovered by an Arlington county fd member and a paramedic from Arlington county.
Dick Bridges the deputy manager from Arlington FD said they found the boxes right where the plane entered the building under piles of burnt debris. According to Navy photographer, Kevin Rimrodt he remarked that there were so many charred bodies he had almost stepped on them many times thru-ought the first floor. The human remains recovered from the pentagon were turned over to the armed forces medical examiner office in Dover air force base. The medical examiner there was able to identify 185 victims out of 189
Today, the three Fort Myer firemen are healthy in body, but shattered in spirit when the due date of September 11th arrives. Alan Wallace has long since retired and gives lectures about the days events and how the trip barely escaped death. Dennis Young, also retired, meanwhile stays in the shadows. Mark Skipper works at Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Millington, Tennessee. In 2013 the three long time members of the Fort Myer Fire department had met for a day of remembrance at the Pentagon and to take a look at the foam rig, truck 161….Mark Skipper was asked why he returned….“It’s been hard to come back and see this, but I’ve got my friends here.”
Not a missile, not a hologram, not a fly over…nor a drone.
The fact of the matter is that American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. That was what everyone saw, what was evident thru the search of the debris and human remains found at the crash site.