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Context of '(9:04 a.m.-9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001: People in Buildings near Pentagon Concerned They Might be Targets of Attack'

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People in the vicinity of the Pentagon, including the managers of the high USA Today building, phone the local emergency call center, with concerns about their own safety. (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 48; Schwartz 2008) The Emergency Communications Center (ECC) is the focal point of all police and fire 911 calls for Arlington County, where the Pentagon is located. (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 66) After events in New York make it clear the US is under attack, the phones there light up with calls from local people wanting to know what to do. (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 48) According to Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department, the center is “receiving phone calls from buildings that are along the [Potomac] river and are also along the flight path for [Washington’s Reagan] National Airport,” which is about a mile from the Pentagon. (Schwartz 2008)
USA Today Building Managers Concerned - Among the callers to the ECC are the building managers at the USA Today building in Rosslyn, who are worried their complex could be a target and want to know if they should evacuate it. (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 48) The USA Today complex is just a few miles down the road from the Pentagon. (Zillgitt 9/13/2001) It includes the two tallest high-rise buildings in the county, one of which is 30-stories high. (White and Lohr 9/11/2001; Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 9) These two buildings are in fact known as the “Twin Towers.” (Lohr 9/7/2001)
ECC Suggests Evacuation - The ECC has no specific guidance it can offer the building managers, but tells them that if it makes them feel better, based on what they are seeing on television, then they should evacuate their building. (Schwartz 2008) Some employees will begin evacuating from the USA Today building after the Pentagon is hit at 9:37. However, Westfield Realty, the company that owns the building, will not ask the tenants to evacuate until around 11:00 a.m. (White and Lohr 9/11/2001; Lohr 9/14/2001)
Firefighters Think USA Today Building Is a Possible Target - Around the time that the ECC is receiving calls from concerned people in the area, firefighters at a local fire station who have seen the television footage of the attacks in New York start speculating what landmarks terrorists might go for if they attacked northern Virginia. The firefighters in fact see the USA Today complex as the most obvious target, but they also consider the Pentagon, CIA headquarters, the White House, and the Capitol building to be potential targets. (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 9-10) Just before the time of the Pentagon attack, a fire alarm will go off at the USA Today building, though it is unclear whether this is actually caused by a fire there (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Schwartz 2008)

The ‘Twin Towers’ USA Today building in Rosslyn, Virginia.The ‘Twin Towers’ USA Today building in Rosslyn, Virginia. [Source: Monday Properties]Arlington County firefighters are dispatched in response to a fire alarm at the USA Today building, located just a few miles down the road from the Pentagon, though whether there is actually a fire there is unclear. (Zillgitt 9/13/2001; Schwartz 2008) The USA Today complex, in the Rosslyn area, includes the two tallest high-rise buildings in the county, which are in fact known as the “Twin Towers.” (Lohr 9/7/2001; Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 9) The building’s managers had been worried that the complex could be a terrorist target, and called the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC), asking if they should evacuate (see (9:04 a.m.-9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department, “Shortly after that, we had a fire response for alarm bells at the USA Today building.” Schwartz is dispatched to the building, but before he leaves his office, word is received about the Pentagon attack, so he heads to the Pentagon instead. (Schwartz 2008; Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 48-49)
Fire Chief Believes Alarm Activated to Facilitate Evacuation - Schwartz will later reflect, “I’ve always suspected that people who were evacuating [the USA Today building] decided that they would pull the fire alarm in order to get everybody out of the building, and that initiated a response on our part.” (Schwartz 2008) However, according to USA Today spokesman Steve Anderson, who is at the complex, employees of USA Today and its parent company Gannett only begin evacuating the building after the Pentagon attack occurs. Westfield Realty, the company that owns the building, asks all the tenants to evacuate at about 11:00 a.m., but most will already have left by then. (White and Lohr 9/11/2001; Lohr 9/14/2001)
Report Apparently Describes Same Incident - The alarm at the USA Today building may be the same incident as is later described in the Arlington County After-Action Report on the emergency response to the Pentagon attack. The report states that, “just one minute before the Pentagon crash,” several fire and medical units are dispatched “to an apartment fire at 1003 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn” (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. A9 pdf file) The address of the USA Today complex is reported as being “1000 and 1110 Wilson Blvd.,” suggesting this is the same building as where the “apartment fire” is reported to be. (Lohr 9/7/2001) The first engine to arrive in response to the apartment fire reports that it is already out. (US Department of Health and Human Services 7/2002, pp. A9 pdf file)
News Reports of Fire - In the aftermath of the attack on the Pentagon, news reports will—apparently incorrectly—describe a fire at the USA Today building. At 9:46 a.m., local radio station WTOP will report, “We’re hearing from a caller who says she is eyewitness to another hit here in town; the USA Today building may also be on fire in addition to the Pentagon.” (Miller 8/26/2002) The Washington Post will describe, “The USA Today building in Rosslyn was supposedly enveloped in smoke.” (Achenbach 9/11/2001) But the Associated Press states that “Radio reports about an explosion at the USA Today building in Rosslyn were false.” (Barakat 9/11/2001)


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