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Context of 'June 16, 2001: Major Simulated Terrorist Attack Exercise is Held in Pennsylvania'

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A training exercise based around a simulated terrorist attack is held at New York’s new emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. The exercise, which lasts 24 hours, is intended to test New York’s response to a biological attack. Many city, state, and federal agency officials, including officials from the Department of Defense, participate. The exercise takes place as the new emergency command center is being unveiled, with a small group of reporters being escorted through it today (see June 8, 1999). [CNN, 6/7/1999; New York Daily News, 6/8/1999; New York Times, 6/8/1999]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Management, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A major training exercise based upon a simulated terrorist attack is held in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, which neighbors Somerset County where Flight 93 crashes on 9/11. The exercise, called Mall Strike 2001, is conducted in Greengate Mall, Hempfield, and involves over 600 emergency first responders and emergency managers responding to the simulated release of a toxic chemical agent and the simulated release of radiation and radiological contamination. [Westmoreland County Annual Financial Report, 2001 pdf file; Connellsville Daily Courier, 9/11/2002] Mall Strike is organized by the Pennsylvania Region 13 Working Group: a 13-county organization that began preparing for terrorist attacks in 1998. When Flight 93 crashes on September 11, the Region 13 Working Group’s chair immediately contacts other members of the group and emergency teams are quickly deployed to the crash site. The group’s four years of preparing and working together “allowed them to develop and train teams that could work efficiently together during an event of this magnitude.” [Department of Homeland Security, 3/12/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Mall Strike 2001

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Sergeant William Lagasse.Sergeant William Lagasse. [Source: Citizen Investigation Team]Several police officers and firefighters see the low-flying Flight 77 as it approaches the Pentagon and crashes. They quickly report this to their own agencies or to the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC), which is the focal point of all police and fire 911 calls for the county. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 66]
bullet Arlington County Police Department Corporal Barry Foust is stopped at traffic lights less than two miles from the Pentagon, and spots the aircraft flying low, then sees a plume of smoke. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 13] He immediately calls the ECC and calmly reports: “I think we just had an airplane crash east of here. Must be in the District area.” [Washington Post, 9/17/2001; Associated Press, 9/18/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C6 pdf file]
bullet Police Motorcycle Officer Richard Cox is standing near a diner less than a mile from the Pentagon. Hearing a sudden roar, he turns and reportedly sees the plane “directly overhead… no more than a hundred feet off the ground.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 427] He calls the ECC and reports, “It’s an American Airlines plane headed eastbound over the [Columbia] Pike, possibly headed for the Pentagon.” [Washington Post, 9/17/2001; Associated Press, 9/18/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C6 pdf file]
bullet Fire Captain Steve McCoy and his crew are traveling north on Interstate 395 in ACFD Engine 101, for a training session in Crystal City. McCoy reportedly sees “a commercial airliner in steep descent, banking sharply to its right before disappearing beyond the horizon,” followed by “a tremendous explosion” and “a massive plume of smoke and fire.” He immediately radioes ECC and reports, “We got a plane down, it looks like in the Crystal City area by the 14th Street Bridge.” Being aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center, he advises that the FBI should be notified, as this is a possible terrorist attack. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A4 pdf file; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 66]
bullet Officer Mark Bright of the Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the Pentagon’s police force—is manning the security booth at the Pentagon’s Mall entrance, when he hears a loud noise. He will recall: “I saw the plane at the Navy Annex area [a few hundred yards from the Pentagon]. I knew it was going to strike the building because it was very, very low—at the height of the street lights.” As soon as he sees it hit the Pentagon he radioes in his report of the attack, and then speeds in his police cruiser to the crash site, becoming the first officer there. [American Forces Press Service, 9/24/2001; Washington Post, 10/25/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 152]
bullet Sergeant William Lagasse, also a member of the DPS, is filling up his patrol car at a gas station near the Pentagon. He recalls that he sees an “American Airlines 757… approximately 100 feet above the ground level, maybe 60 feet in front of me.” He watches the plane crash into the Pentagon. His first reaction is to call the DPS Communications Center and state, “An aircraft has just flown into the side of the building.” He then grabs his medical bag and dashes to the crash scene. [Washington Post, 10/25/2001; Library of Congress, 12/4/2001]
bullet Alan Wallace and Mark Skipper of the Fort Myer Fire Department are manning the fire station by the Pentagon heliport, and are outside checking their truck. Wallace glances up and sees the plane coming at them, and the two men then dive for cover (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Wallace promptly radioes the fire department headquarters at Fort Myer, and reports that an airliner has hit the west side of the Pentagon. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 65]
Partly due to these calls, many emergency responders quickly learn of the crash and are able to arrive at the Pentagon within minutes of it (see 9:40 a.m.-9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 66] Some fire and rescue units from Arlington County and elsewhere also respond—self-dispatching from stations or diverting from other destinations—after hearing Captain McCoy’s radio message to the ECC. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A4 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Barry Foust, Arlington County Emergency Communications Center, William Lagasse, Alan Wallace, Richard Cox, Steve McCoy, Mark Bright, Mark Skipper

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

When Flight 77 hits the Pentagon, it misses the parts of the building known to house the military’s most senior leaders. Journalist and author Steve Vogel later says, “The hijackers had not hit the River or Mall sides” of the building, “where the senior military leadership had been concentrated since 1942.” At the time of the attack, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is “sitting in the same third-floor office above the River entrance as every secretary of defense since Louis Johnson in 1949, a location that had been a matter of public record all that time. The joint chiefs and all the service secretaries were arrayed in various prime E-Ring offices on the River and Mall sides.” Furthermore, “All the command centers save the Navy’s were on the River or Mall sides; the National Military Command Center could have been decimated as the Navy Command Center was, a disaster that could have effectively shut down the Pentagon as the first American war of the twenty-first century began.” Instead, the area hit comprises Army accounting offices, the Navy Command Center, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office. [Vogel, 2007, pp. 431 and 449-450] Due to recent renovation work, many offices in that section of the Pentagon are currently empty. [Government Executive, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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