9/11 Pentagon attack survivors, Part 1

Print
Email
|

by Mike Gooding

WVEC.com

Posted on September 9, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Updated Friday, Sep 9 at 8:43 PM

NORFOLK – The memory of what happened on September 11, 2001 is never far from the thoughts of people who survived the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In Arlington, people working in the Pentagon had seen what happened in New York.

"I could see what looked like a mushroom cloud and immediately thinking nukes. I said ‘we’ve got to get away from here as far and as fast as we can,’” recalled William Layer, an Army reservist working in the office of the Secretary of the Air Force.

Col. Franklin Childress lost 26 colleagues in the Army personnel office when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

"I realize how close I came to being killed and you have a little bit of survivors guilt because there were people here that were not supposed to be here and got killed. And here I was supposed to be there and was spared, so it’s miraculous,” he said.

The Pentagon’s 9/11 memorial lists the names of the 184 people who were killed – the people on the airplane and those on the ground – so no one ever forgets what happened.

The emotion of that moment is still fresh in the mind of Pentagon police officer Mark Bright.

“You could hear a loud roar, the plane I guess. The noise coming off the building, it reflected the noise and a loud explosion. Bright said he tried to help as many people as possible get out of the building.

Survivor Lisa Leonard was a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, working in the Army's budget liaison office.

"We were in the most inner ring, the A-ring, and our windows broke, the building shook and we knew immediately that we had been hit," said Leonard.

Leonard is still so moved by what happened, she's now a docent for the Pentagon Memorial Park, where every day she looks upon the benches which mark each and every life lost.

"It was surreal and you knew it had happened, but you just couldn't, you know, take it all in," added Leonard.

Thomas Heidenberger's wife Michelle was senior flight attendant on American Airlines flight 77.

A decade later, he's doing the best that he can.

"The best way to summarize it is, life goes on. We need to go on. But, does it seem like ten years? absolutely not. Just like yesterday," stated Heidenberger.

Maryland National Guard Master Sergeant Aarion Frank recalls mixed emotions.  It was his unit’s job to protect in the hours after the attack and for the next ten months.

"I can remember clearly when we first pulled up to the site, there was a sense of anger, that you wanted to get out and do something,” recalled Frank. “What you were going to do, you didn't really know. But you felt the need to do something."

10 years later, the Pentagon survivors believe the U.S. must remain vigilant.

“There are people out there and no matter what we do, they want to hurt us and they want to kill Americans,” Col. Childress says.

Layer stresses that Americans need to expect the unexpected.

“If your gut tells you something’s bad, follow it,” he adds.

But the aftermath of 9/11 is also a tale of perseverance.

"I'm glad we all held our ground. This is not going to happen again. I have faith it’s not going to happen again with the good people we have on the job,” Officer Bright expressed.

 

Print
Email
|