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Context of '(Between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Myers Visit the Pentagon Crash Site'

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The Pentagon explodes. 
The Pentagon explodes. [Source: Donley/ Sipa]Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. All 64 people on the plane are killed. A hundred-and-twenty-four people working in the building are killed, and a further victim will die in hospital several days later. Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi presumably are killed instantly. (Typically, they are not included in the death counts.) [CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001; Washington Post, 11/21/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; MSNBC, 9/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; CBS, 9/11/2002] Flight 77 hits the first floor of the Pentagon’s west wall. The impact and the resulting explosion heavily damage the building’s three outer rings. The path of destruction cuts through Army accounting offices on the outer E Ring, the Navy Command Center on the D Ring, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office on the C Ring. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 431 and 449] Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” [US Department of Defense, 9/15/2001] “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there.” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/2001] Furthermore, the plane hits an area that has no basement. As journalist Steve Vogel later points out, “If there had been one under the first floor, its occupants could easily have been trapped by fire and killed when the upper floors collapsed.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 450]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, US Department of Defense, Salem Alhazmi, Majed Moqed, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket.Rumsfeld show on a video broadcast on CNN helping carry a stretcher shortly after the Pentagon attack. He is in the center of the picture, wearing a dark jacket. [Source: CNN]Within seconds of the Pentagon being hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rushed out of his office and headed toward the crash scene (see 9:38 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to Officer Aubrey Davis, who is currently accompanying Rumsfeld as his bodyguard, when they reach the site, “There were the flames, and bits of metal all around. The secretary picked up one of the pieces of metal. I was telling him he shouldn’t be interfering with a crime scene when he looked at some inscription on it and said, ‘American Airlines.’” According to Rumsfeld, a person who’d seen the attack on the Pentagon informs him a plane had flown into it. Rumsfeld later recalls: “I saw people on the grass, and we just, we tried to put them in stretchers and then move them out across the grass towards the road and lifted them over a jersey wall so the people on that side could stick them into the ambulances. I was out there for a while, and then people started gathering, and we were able to get other people to do that, to hold IVs for people. There were people lying on the grass with clothes blown off and burns all over them.” [Parade, 10/12/2001; Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-2] Versions of this story will appear elsewhere. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/12/2001; US Department of Defense, 12/5/2001; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] Video footage confirms that Rumsfeld helps carry a stretcher at the crash scene. [CNN, 8/17/2002] One report will even describe him pulling budget analyst Paul Gonzales to safety from the burning wreckage. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] However, Gonzales later offers his own detailed recollections of pulling other people to safety, which fail to involve Rumsfeld in any way. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002] Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke will say Rumsfeld is gone from the building for “about half an hour.” [WBZ Radio 1030 (Boston), 9/15/2001] A Pentagon spokesperson has Rumsfeld helping at the crash site for “15 minutes or so.” [Reuters, 9/11/2001] Another account will claim he loads the wounded onto stretchers for 15 minutes. [Scripps Howard News Service, 9/11/2001] However, considering the time it would have taken to walk to the crash site—each side of the enormous Pentagon is the length of three football fields—journalist Andrew Cockburn later concludes that Rumsfeld could only have been at the crash scene for a brief period. [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 3] Rumsfeld reportedly heads back into the Pentagon at the urging of a security agent, though in an interview soon after 9/11 he will claim the decision to go back inside was his own, saying, “I decided I should be in [the building] figuring out what to do, because your brain begins to connect things, and there were enough people there to worry about that.” [Parade, 10/12/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] He tells the 9/11 Commission, “I was back in the Pentagon with a crisis action team shortly before or after 10:00 a.m.” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004] While Rumsfeld is at the crash scene, others are frantically trying to get in touch with him but are unable to do so (see (9:38 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Pentagon, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Aubrey Davis, Paul Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Executive Support Center.The Executive Support Center. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and several other senior Pentagon officials move from the National Military Command Center (NMCC) to the Executive Support Center (ESC) due to the poor air quality in the NMCC. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156-157] Since around 11:00 a.m., Rumsfeld, Myers, and a small number of their colleagues had been in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room within the NMCC, participating in a secure video teleconference (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 155] As the teleconference progressed, they started feeling unwell, and an air quality specialist with the Arlington County Fire Department subsequently came and told them that the oxygen level in the conference room was dangerously low (see (After 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 340; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012; Graff, 2019, pp. 277-278] Fortunately, Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant, who had been participating in the teleconference, found that the ESC was smoke-free. Those in the conference room consequently relocate there. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156-157] The ESC, on the third floor of the Pentagon, is a secure communications hub with a video teleconference facility. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 440] It also has its own air-conditioning system. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 8/1/2002 pdf file] Once he has settled there, Myers passes on Rumsfeld’s authorization for a partial Reserve call-up. Those activated include fighter pilots, air tanker crews, and communications specialists. “With the country suddenly at war, we would need all the help we could muster, and much of that help was in the Reserve and National Guard,” Myers will later comment. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 157]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Executive Support Center, Edmund Giambastiani, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Pentagon crash site.The Pentagon crash site. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visit the site of the Pentagon attack. [American Forces Press Service, 9/9/2011; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Since 12:19 p.m., the two men have been in the Executive Support Center, on the third floor of the Pentagon (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 156-157] Rumsfeld visited the crash site this morning, immediately after the Pentagon was attacked (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Cockburn, 2007, pp. 1-3; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130] But this is the first time Myers has been there. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Colonel Matthew Klimow, Myers’s executive assistant, accompanies them. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012]
Myers Notices Plane Parts - When they arrive at the crash site, the men inspect it. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 158] Klimow will later describe what he sees. “The first thing I saw was a huge debris field—bits and pieces of Flight 77”—the plane that hit the Pentagon (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001)—“scattered on the ground, glittering in the sun like confetti,” he will say. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Myers will recall that some of the heavier parts of the airliner—the landing gear and the engines—are recognizable. [American Forces Press Service, 9/9/2011] Klimow also notices the “huge V-shaped gash in the building” and “smoke still billowing up.” [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] “The walls and roof on a wide section of this western Pentagon sector had collapsed into a heap of still-smoldering rubble,” Myers will describe. [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 158] However, he will comment, he is “impressed that more of the building hadn’t collapsed.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/9/2011] Myers also notices the many workers, including firefighters, medical personnel, and police officers, who are trying to help in any way they can. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Rumsfeld and Myers Talk to Rumsfeld's Flight Surgeon - While Rumsfeld and Myers are at the crash site, Colonel John Baxter comes over and talks to them. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] Baxter is the commander of the Pentagon’s Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic and also Rumsfeld’s flight surgeon, who accompanies the secretary of defense on trips. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 58; Condon-Rall, 2011, pp. 15] He describes to Rumsfeld, Myers, and Klimow the triage and treatment of patients he has conducted. It is unclear when Rumsfeld and Myers visit the crash site. They go there at 4:00 p.m., according to Klimow. [George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] But Myers will recall that they go there “[j]ust before 5:00 p.m.” [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 158] Rumsfeld will visit the site again later this afternoon with a larger group (see (Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2006, pp. 228]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Matthew S. Klimow, John Baxter, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Joseph Wassel.Joseph Wassel. [Source: Defense Information Systems Agency]Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visits the scene of the Pentagon attack for the third time today. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/2/2002 pdf file; Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 12/23/2002 pdf file] He went to the crash site this morning, immediately after the attack occurred (see Between 9:38 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. September 11, 2001), and visited it again earlier this afternoon with General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (see (Between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 130; American Forces Press Service, 9/9/2011] Rumsfeld is accompanied by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John Warner (R-VA), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, when he visits the crash site for the third time. The two senators called him earlier on to promise their wholehearted support, and he had suggested they come and visit the Pentagon. He is also accompanied by a number of aides. These include Vice Admiral Edmund Giambastiani Jr., his senior military assistant; Joseph Wassel, assistant to the secretary of defense for communications; and Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. Clarke will later describe what they see when they arrive at the scene. “Thousands of metal shards covered everything—the wreck of the building, the grass, what was left of the Pentagon’s helicopter pad,” she will write, adding that “[t]he massive wall—recently reinforced as part of a long-planned renovation—had collapsed in on itself.” Fires are still burning as the group quietly walks around the site. As Rumsfeld and his entourage head back into the building, they pass uniformed personnel standing over dead bodies covered in white sheets. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/9/2003 pdf file; Clarke, 2006, pp. 228-229]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Carl Levin, Edmund Giambastiani, Joseph M. Wassel, Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, John W. Warner

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announces that, despite the unprecedented attack there this morning, September 12 will be a normal day at the Pentagon and he wants all employees to report for work. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 455; Graff, 2019, pp. 362] Rumsfeld has, since 12:19 p.m., been based in the Executive Support Center, on the third floor of the Pentagon (see 12:19 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132] Earlier in the afternoon, he went outside to inspect the crash site and saw the extent of the damage there (see (Between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Myers and McConnell, 2009, pp. 158; George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 8/3/2012] He saw that while the west wall is breached and on fire, the building’s other four sides are undamaged and at least 60 percent of the building is unaffected by the attack. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 247-248]
Rumsfeld Has Not Consulted the Incident Commander - He now tells those around him: “I want the chain of command to notify everybody that tomorrow, 12 September, is a normal workday at the Pentagon. I want everybody here reporting for work.” This is “a pretty startling announcement,” Colonel Matthew Klimow, executive assistant to General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later comment. [Graff, 2019, pp. 362] Rumsfeld did not consult Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD), who is the incident commander at the Pentagon, or building supervisors before making the decision to reopen the Pentagon. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 455] “I hadn’t talked to anybody when I said that [the Pentagon should open the next day],” he will recall. His decision was based on his impression “that the smoke and problems had declined, and that there were undoubtedly significant portions of the building that could be occupied safely,” he will say. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 12/23/2002 pdf file] “Having it open for business the next day seemed to me to be important,” he will comment.
Firefighters Will Be Alarmed at Rumsfeld's Decision - Rumsfeld’s announcement, however, will cause concern among senior fire officials. Schwartz will be “astonished at the news,” according to journalist and author Steve Vogel, since firefighters are “battling a big and dangerous fire, an unknown number of dead [are] in the rubble, and there [is] danger of further collapse.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 455] Chief Edward Plaugher of the ACFD will also be concerned, for a number of reasons. Pamela Varley, a senior case writer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, will describe these, writing: “From a fire safety perspective, it was not considered wise to have the utilities turned back on in parts of the building while the roof was on fire and a large volume of water was being sprayed there. In addition, the crash and fire were emitting potentially dangerous toxins into the building’s air supply. Finally, to have thousands of workers coming and going from the Pentagon complicated the task of controlling and securing the site, and threatened to impede the emergency response.” [Varley, 2009, pp. 256] FBI representatives, meanwhile, will be concerned because the Pentagon is a crime scene. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 144] And Steve Carter, the assistant building manager, will be “flabbergasted,” according to Vogel, although he will understand the rationale behind Rumsfeld’s decision, since the Pentagon has never closed its doors in its history. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 455]
Special Measures Will Be Arranged So the Pentagon Can Reopen - Rumsfeld’s decision will place additional burdens on the ACFD response force and the FBI’s evidence recovery team. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A65 pdf file] Plaugher and John Jester, chief of the Defense Protective Service—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon—will begin an informal negotiation over what will be necessary for large numbers of people to return to the Pentagon. Plaugher will insist that plywood barriers be erected to cordon off the whole area between Corridors 3 and 6. He will also want armed guards with the authority to turn back even the most senior officers placed at every juncture, to prevent military personnel returning to their wrecked offices. And, in light of the smoke and fumes from the fires, he will want plans in place to evacuate the building at a moment’s notice, if necessary. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 248-249] Due to FBI concerns, yellow crime scene tape and guards will signify that sections of the building between Corridors 2 and 7 are off limits, and wooden wall barriers will later be built to further restrict access to the crash site. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 144] Rumsfeld will publicly announce his decision to reopen the Pentagon on September 12 during a news briefing at 6:42 p.m. (see 6:42 p.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Government Executive, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Arlington County Fire Department, Edward Plaugher, Steve Carter, Donald Rumsfeld, Matthew S. Klimow, James Schwartz, Pentagon, John Jester

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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