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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; McClatchy Washington Bureau, 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. [McClatchy Washington Bureau, 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. [USA Today, 9/13/2001] It includes the two tallest high-rise buildings in the county, one of which is 30-stories high. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 9] These two buildings are in fact known as the “Twin Towers.” [Washington Business Journal, 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. [McClatchy Washington Bureau, 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. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Business Journal, 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). [McClatchy Washington Bureau, 2008]

Entity Tags: USA Today building, Arlington County Emergency Communications Center, Arlington County Fire Department, James Schwartz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [USA Today, 9/13/2001; McClatchy Washington Bureau, 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.” [Washington Business Journal, 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. [McClatchy Washington Bureau, 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.” [McClatchy Washington Bureau, 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. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Business Journal, 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. [Washington Business Journal, 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.” [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] The Washington Post will describe, “The USA Today building in Rosslyn was supposedly enveloped in smoke.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2001] But the Associated Press states that “Radio reports about an explosion at the USA Today building in Rosslyn were false.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: USA Today building, Arlington County Fire Department, James Schwartz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Initial firefighting efforts after the attack on the Pentagon.Initial firefighting efforts after the attack on the Pentagon. [Source: US Department of Defense] (click image to enlarge)Numerous area firefighters and other emergency workers promptly learn of the Pentagon crash and are able to arrive at the crash scene within 5 or 6 minutes of the attack. These responders include members of the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) and the Fort Myer Fire Department, plus units belonging to the Fire and Rescue Department of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 66] ACFD’s training officer, Captain Chuck Gibbs, reaches the crash site within 3 minutes of the attack, followed a minute later by Battalion Chief Bob Cornwell, who assumes initial incident command responsibilities. ACFD Captain Edward Blunt arrives at 9:42 and establishes Emergency Medical Services control. ACFD Truck 105 is the first unit to arrive, reaching the scene at 9:41. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A5-A6 and 1-1 pdf file] A minute after it, Rescue Engines 161 and 162 of the Fort Myer Fire Department arrive, followed by a reserve pumper, Engine 163. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 68] MWAA fire and medical units, and the first contingent of the FBI’s National Capital Response Squad, also arrive within 5 minutes of the crash. By 10:00 a.m., most of the ACFD duty shift will be engaged at the Pentagon. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A7 pdf file] Federal, state, and local civilian police officers also arrive within minutes of the attack. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161] Most Arlington County Police Department officers will have reached the scene within 3 hours. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C6 pdf file] Several factors have contributed to the prompt emergency response:
bullet The Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC), which is the focal point of all police and fire 911 calls for the county, received several calls from emergency workers who saw the low-flying plane approaching the Pentagon (see (9:36 a.m.-9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 66]
bullet Some fire and rescue units responded after hearing the radio message of Fire Captain Steve McCoy, reporting the crash. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A4 pdf file]
bullet Numerous emergency units were already on the road near the Pentagon, and were able to quickly respond, after being called out to an apartment fire that was found to have already gone out (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Fire Engineering, 11/2002]
bullet And MWAA firefighters were already responding to a car crash at nearby Reagan National Airport, had heard the sound of the crash, and saw the resulting smoke rising into the air (see (9:20 a.m.-9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 69-70]

Entity Tags: Chuck Gibbs, Arlington County Fire Department, National Capital Response Squad, Bob Cornwell, Fort Myer Fire Department, Edward Blunt, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

James Schwartz.James Schwartz. [Source: Arlington County, Virginia]Firefighting and other operations are severely disrupted when the Pentagon site is evacuated due to a report of an unidentified aircraft heading toward the Pentagon. Firefighters have to abandon their equipment and run several hundred yards to protected areas. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 and A30 pdf file] Assistant Fire Chief James Schwartz orders the evacuation after the control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport notifies the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) of an inbound aircraft that is not identifying itself and is heading up the Potomac River at a high rate of speed. It is not known if this is a hijacked plane, but no aircraft other than military jets are now supposed to be in the air. The ECC then notifies Schwartz at the Pentagon. By the time he orders the evacuation, the aircraft is reportedly just two minutes away. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and A52 pdf file; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 187] At one point, the controllers at Reagan Airport are reporting that the plane has disappeared from radar, though they do not say why they think this is. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 191]
Approaching Aircraft Is 'Friendly' - The unidentified aircraft is soon determined to be “friendly.” [Fire Engineering, 11/2002; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 193] According to the Arlington County After-Action Report, it turns out to have been a government aircraft flying Attorney General John Ashcroft back to Washington. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 and C52 pdf file; Vogel, 2007, pp. 453] However, a 2002 FAA report will state that Ashcroft’s plane landed in Washington “just before noon” (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002 pdf file] If that report is correct, then the identity of the approaching aircraft is unclear.
Emergency Operations Disrupted - The firefighters and other emergency responders return to the Pentagon and resume their activities, but the evacuation has significantly disrupted firefighting operations, giving fires in some areas 30 minutes to gain ground. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A16 pdf file; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 193-194] The FBI’s evidence recovery operation has also been disrupted. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 191]
Evacuation Avoidable, Caused by Loss of FBI Presence - This evacuation is later determined to have been avoidable, and only necessary because of the loss of a senior FBI presence at the incident command post (ICP) at the Pentagon, which means there is no way for the ICP to verify whether the approaching aircraft is “friendly” or not. This loss is due to the FBI having relocated to the Virginia State Police Barracks shortly after midday (see (12:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001). The Arlington County After-Action Report will later conclude, “Friendly aircraft, carrying US government executives and escorted by fighter aircraft, should not have been cause for evacuation.” A previous evacuation of the Pentagon site due to reports of an approaching unidentified aircraft occurred around 10:15 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and a third similar evacuation will occur on the morning of September 12 (see (10:00 a.m.) September 12, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30-A31 pdf file; Fire Engineering, 11/2002]

Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, James Schwartz, Arlington County Emergency Communications Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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