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Context of 'Early Morning September 11, 2001: Medic Is Studying Medical Emergency Disaster Plan for Plane Crash at Pentagon'

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A plane crash is simulated inside the cardboard courtyard of a model Pentagon.A plane crash is simulated inside the cardboard courtyard of a model Pentagon. [Source: Dennis Ryan, MDW News Service]Pentagon and Arlington County emergency responders assemble in the Office of the Secretary of Defense conference room in the Pentagon for a mass casualty exercise (“MASCAL”). The exercise involves several mock-scenarios. One is of a commercial airliner crashing into the Pentagon and killing 341 people, while two others are a terrorist attack at the Pentagon’s subway stop and a construction accident. The plane crash exercise is conducted using a large-scale model of the Pentagon with a model airplane literally on fire in the central courtyard of the building. An Army medic who participates calls it “a real good scenario and one that could happen easily,” while a fire chief notes: “You have to plan for this. Look at all the air traffic around here.” (Ryan 11/3/2000; Lines 5/24/2002; United Press International 4/22/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 314)

Sergeant Matt Rosenberg, an army medic at the Pentagon, is studying “a new medical emergency disaster plan based on the unlikely scenario of an airplane crashing into the place.” (Maraniss 9/16/2001) The day before, Rosenberg later recalls in an interview with the Office of Medical History, he called the FBI with questions about who would have medical jurisdiction if such an event were to take place. “Believe it or not, the day prior to the incident, I was just on the phone with the FBI, and we were talking ‘so who has command should this happen, who has the medical jurisdiction, who does this, who does that,’ and we talked about it and talked about it, and he helped me out a lot. And then the next day, during the incident, I actually found him. He was out there on the incident that day.” (Office of Medical History 9/2004, pp. 9)

Medical workers at the first triage area set up outside the Pentagon after it is attacked.Medical workers at the first triage area set up outside the Pentagon after it is attacked. [Source: Mark D. Faram / US Navy]Soon after the Pentagon is hit, medical workers initiate their mass casualty plan (MASCAL) for dealing with disasters. Sergeant Matthew Rosenberg, a medic at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, arrives at the center courtyard. Seeing smoke rising from the side of the building and patients staggering out, he radios the clinic: “You need to initiate MASCAL right now! We have mass casualties! I need medical assets to the courtyard!” Major Lorie Brown, chief nurse of the DiLorenzo Clinic, says that as soon as she sees people running down the corridor to evacuate, “we initiated the MASCAL, started galvanizing all of our assets and put our plan in action.” (Maraniss 9/16/2001; Office of Medical History 9/2004, pp. 7, 39) The Pentagon has actually conducted at least three MASCAL training exercises in the previous 12 months, based around a plane crashing into the place (see October 24-26, 2000)(see May 2001)(see Early August 2001). Lieutenant Colonel John Felicio, the deputy commander for administration of the DiLorenzo Clinic, says, “The saving grace to our efforts was the two MASCAL exercises we previously had conducted.… Our scenario for both MASCALS was a plane flying into the Pentagon courtyard.” Furthermore, the nearby Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), which sends ambulances in response to the attack, has recently recovered from a four-day power loss (see August 27-31, 2001). A military report will later state: “Many believe that [this] extended emergency… helped WRAMC in its response on September 11.” (Office of Medical History 9/2004, pp. 18, 146)


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