DAY 2 – 18 (09/12/01 – 09/30/01)
It was around 5:00 am when all commotion started with people yelling and talking loud, the lights above on the drill floor came on and the first sergeant trying to get everyone’s attention. Our marching orders came that we would be going to the Pentagon to assist in the search and rescue and recovery efforts going on. From that point to the time we actually left the armory was kind of a blur for whatever reason, but once our military equipment was loaded up we hit the road. We ended up getting a police escort from the armory all the way down to the Pentagon reservation. Maryland State Police, United States Park Police, Washington Metropolitan Police (when we entered D.C.) and a few others joined in on the escort. During the escort we nearly lost one of our vehicles to an idiot not paying attention or in a rush. It was one of our school buses that we used for troop transport and other things, which at that time had most of our equipment. I just remember hearing tires locking up and the bus on two wheels, but the driver recovered and was able to continue down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
When we entered Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Police joined the escort and took over most of the escort in blocking traffic. However, I remembered as we were coming down the road, going under a bridge, there was a car exiting off the ramp coming towards us. One D.C. Police cruiser came up along side us and partially blocking the ramp to slow down the car from impeding the escort. Well, I don’t know who this person was, but they didn’t slow down fast enough and didn’t listen to the direction that the officer was telling them. So the officer kept going and ever so close drove the other car nearly into the jersey barrier and I can tell if the car didn’t stop in time, he would’ve literally rammed the car into the jersey barrier and kept going. Luckily for them they did stop in time and I have no clue what happened if anything did. We kept going and several minutes later we drove up at the Pentagon where we met the Pentagon Police. Some time went by before we were given orders to secure the crime scene as chaos was still the leader of it all.
Not too long after we arrived most of us was just in awe at the destruction we saw in front of us. I just remember staring at it for a while and just thinking about the last moments of the passengers and employees lives. How scary that could’ve been knowing that your last moments here on earth was crashing into the Pentagon, and others who might’ve seen this coming while still in the building. As we could see people running around with their head chopped off, we tried to get ourselves together to firmly secure the scene from any further contamination. I don’t know exactly when this happened or how soon this happened after we arrived, all over a sudden we heard someone yell “ANOTHER PLANE COMING!!” and everyone running past us to a hill at the end of the parking lot. Firefighters sliding down the ladder off the roof of the Pentagon with the quickness to join the others. As most of us was about to join them we then received orders to stay put and not to leave! Yeah! I was thinking about my life flashing before my eyes if another plane came in to finish off the Pentagon while we are still here. I heard a fighter jet scream over head in the direction of the incoming plane, which was determined to be a FEMA plane coming from Tennessee.
A few hours later we saw them coming to the Pentagon with small smiles on their faces knowing that they dodged one from being shot down. This was not the only screw up that happened within the first week after the attacks. A federal jurisdictional battle ensued between the EPA, FBI, Pentagon Police and the military department. It was finally taken over by the FBI, who announced that they would have full jurisdiction and investigative authority. In the days that followed to the end of the month, better things came about when Outback, McDonald’s and other restaurant companies brought trailers full of food and employees. Free food every morning, afternoon and evening gave us decent morale to deal with the darkness that loomed over. I am, however, blessed that our unit was not given the detail to go inside the Pentagon to do the recovery mission. The stories I heard about the recovery efforts inside was just hard to hear and hard to imagine. Bodies froze in place for whatever they were doing at the time of the attack, bodies burnt to a crisp at a conference table and a partial body found with no shoulder and head. Body parts were found floating on the bottom floor in jet fuel and water.
My closes detail to seeing anything like this was when I had to protect a small alley way from being invaded by reporters and onlookers. This is where they were bringing out partial full body bags and just tossing them to each other as they put them in the back of a truck. I could almost look at the body bags and tell which body part it was being tossed between the recovery team members. I don’t know what detail was worse, recovery team, the detail I had or the morgue detail that was created on the other side of the Pentagon away from the media and others trying to see what is going on. Outside of that others were arrested at the Pentagon and soon released when it was figured out that many of them were trying to take advantage of the situation by stealing artifacts and items from the scene. A few might’ve even been blocked from trying to commit another attack on a much smaller scale, but that was never released to the public. Having numerous police and fire department agencies arriving at the scene from all over the place was pretty cool to see. Some came as far as North Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and even upstate New York. Too much of a surprise the Pentagon is actually in Arlington County, Virginia not Washington, D.C. like so many thought. I was told that Washington, D.C. owns the property which the Pentagon sits on, but has no authority over.
Slowly for the remaining two weeks of September things began to get organized and things began to run much more smoothly. Another bombshell was dropped on us as we approached the end of the month, which also spelled out the end of our detail at the Pentagon before going back home. However, going back home was not going to happen as we all gathered at a day room on Ft. Myers, where we were staying, and got word that our next mission was either in Seattle, Washington or Ft. Stewart, Georgia. It was quickly followed that our next mission would take us a year away from home beginning from October 2001 to October 2002. It might’ve been days or hours before our actually departure date from D.C. that we were going to Ft. Stewart, Georgia to replace the 3RD Infantry Division (Rock of the Marne). Once we got down to our final destination, we ended up staying at a hotel as our barracks were being built to make room, which I didn’t care about. Staying at hotel rooms for the two months were there was awesome and once again gave some credence to our mission there. However, we would never see Ft. Stewart, Georgia as our home for the next 12 months. We began our law enforcement tour of duty there in October and left in December to head back to the Pentagon to complete our remaining ten months.
Being present when this flag was flown and draped over the edge of the Pentagon was absolutely a proud and defining moment. Complete silence for the entire compound as we saluted the flag was astonishing and something I will never forget.
About ten months after our year tour at the Pentagon and Ft. Stewart, Georgia ended, we were once again called back up to serve our country in need. Kabul, Afghanistan would be our next destination for the next nine to ten months, but not all over us would serve in the same country. Our last tour was under Operation Noble Eagle and our next tour would be under Operation Enduring Freedom. Once again my career on the civilian side of law enforcement was delayed as I was in the police academy when our overseas orders came in and yanked just one week short of graduation. When 9/11 happened I was at the beginning stages of trying to start my career when my application was in and I was halfway through the process. Another chapter in my life was beginning and how I would respond coming back from a foreign conflict would soon come to pass.