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Context of '10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001: Pentagon Section Collapses'

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A number of witnesses see a helicopter flying near the Pentagon in the minutes before the attack there.
bullet Jeffrey Mark Parsons, an assistant chief patrol agent with the United States Border Patrol, sees a blue and white helicopter that appears as if it is coming in to land, from a window on the 17th floor of the hotel he is staying at, near the Pentagon. Parsons will later recall that two or three minutes before the Pentagon attack occurs: “I saw [the helicopter] circle… between the hotel and the Pentagon, going toward the landing pad [at the Pentagon] where that airliner ultimately hit. And I thought that he landed on the pad.” Parsons will say the helicopter flies in at “a weird angle,” and recall that he has been staying at the Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington for almost a month, but has “never seen a helicopter approach the Pentagon from that direction before.” He will recognize the helicopter as a Huey because he has flown Hueys and knows they make “a very distinct sound.” According to John Darrell Sherwood, a Navy historian who interviews Parsons about the incident, the helicopter belongs to the US Park Police and has been instructed to intercept the aircraft that subsequently hits the Pentagon (see Shortly Before 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 258]
bullet A senior Air Force officer who is somewhere outside the Pentagon also sees a helicopter circling the Pentagon around this time, although he believes it to be a US military helicopter. Shortly after the Pentagon attack, the unnamed officer will tell a CNN reporter that the helicopter “disappeared behind the building where the helicopter landing zone is… and he then saw [a] fireball go into the sky” when the Pentagon is hit. [CNN, 9/11/2001]
bullet Jennifer Reichert, who is stuck in traffic on Route 27 in front of the Pentagon, will describe that just before the attack, “A helicopter takes off from the heliport at the Pentagon.” She will add: “Minutes—maybe seconds—later, I hear it: American Airlines Flight 77 screams toward the Pentagon. The explosion [of the crash] shakes my car.” [Washington Post, 9/5/2002]
bullet Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Denny Watson, his CIA briefer, who are in Rumsfeld’s office at the Pentagon, see a helicopter flying very close to the building, outside the window of the office, and then pulling away just before the building is attacked (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Priess, 2016, pp. 244-245]
Perhaps due to the presence of this helicopter in the area, some people will initially think the attack on the Pentagon involves a helicopter hitting the building. Captain William Durm, the commander of the Pentagon’s Triservice Dental Clinic, will head to the building’s center courtyard shortly after the Pentagon is hit. Someone there will tell him a helicopter has hit the other side of the building. [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 11] Some early news reports will suggest a helicopter crashed into the Pentagon. [Thomas Crosbie Media, 9/11/2001; Poynter Institute, 9/2/2002] One report will claim that “one aircraft and a helicopter have crashed into the Pentagon.” [Airline Industry Information, 9/11/2001] Vice President Dick Cheney will tell NBC’s Meet the Press that “the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter” hit the building. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] The Guardian will report that one witness claims the explosion that occurs when the Pentagon is hit blows up a helicopter circling overhead. [Guardian, 9/12/2001] New York Times columnist William Safire will report that, at approximately this time, Cheney is told that either another plane or “a helicopter loaded with explosives” is heading for the White House. [New York Times, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Jennifer Reichert, Jeffrey Mark Parsons, John Darrell Sherwood, Pentagon, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, United States Park Police, Denny Watson, William Safire, William Durm, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

This piece of metal, apparently showing the red, white, and blue stripes worn by American Airlines, is said to be a piece of wreckage from Flight 77.This piece of metal, apparently showing the red, white, and blue stripes worn by American Airlines, is said to be a piece of wreckage from Flight 77. [Source: Associated Press]Some emergency responders and other witnesses are surprised at the lack of major plane debris at the Flight 77 crash site at the Pentagon:
bullet Brian Ladd of the Fort Myer Fire Department arrives at the scene a few minutes after the attack. Yet, “Expecting to see pieces of the wings or fuselage,” he instead reportedly sees “millions of tiny pieces” of debris spread “everywhere.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 68]
bullet Captain John Durrer of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Fire Department also arrives within minutes of the crash. He will later recall thinking: “Well where’s the airplane, you know, where’s the parts to it? You would think there’d be something.” Reportedly, “The near total disintegration of the plane had left only a multitude of bits scattered outside the building.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 70]
bullet Sergeant Ronald Galey, a helicopter pilot with the US Park Police, arrives over the Pentagon in his helicopter within minutes of the attack (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). He will describe what he sees there: “[I]t was a relatively small hole in the side of the building. I’m going, ‘This couldn’t possibly have been a 757.’ There’s absolutely nothing that you could identify as an aircraft part anywhere around there. Nothing. Just couldn’t have been.” Galey will add, “I just can’t emphasize enough, the initial damage, looking at it, it just didn’t look like a 757 hit that building.” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001]
bullet Sergeant Keith Bohn, another Park Police helicopter pilot, lands his helicopter near the crash site shortly after the attack. He will recall: “When I landed on the scene, there was actually a particular slit into the side of the Pentagon, which is hard to believe that an aircraft made it, but it’s that small of a slit.… I could not see any aviation parts. I couldn’t see an engine or a wing. There was just rubble, pieces, small pieces.” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/19/2001]
bullet Steve DeChiaro, the president of a New Jersey technology firm, had just arrived at the Pentagon when it was hit and ran toward the crash site. He will recall: “But when I looked at the site, my brain could not resolve the fact that it was a plane because it only seemed like a small hole in the building. No tail. No wings. No nothing.” [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/1/2002]
bullet Early in the afternoon, CNN Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports: “[T]he only pieces left that you can see are small enough that you can pick up in your hand. There are no large tail sections, wing sections, fuselage, nothing like that anywhere around, which would indicate that the entire plane crashed into the side of the Pentagon and then caused the side to collapse.” [CNN, 9/11/2001]
bullet Sheryl Alleger, a Navy officer at the Pentagon, goes past the crash site in an ambulance in the afternoon. She will recall: “[Y]ou couldn’t see any bits of the airplane, that was the thing that got me.… I expected to see the tail sticking out.… But—nothing. It was like the building swallowed the plane.” [Hilton, 2002, pp. 143]
bullet Eileen Murphy, a nurse at the Pentagon’s DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, will recall: “I expected to see the airplane, so I guess my initial impression was: ‘Where’s the plane? How come there’s not a plane?’ I would have thought the building would have stopped it and somehow we would have seen something like part of, or half of the plane, or the lower part, or the back of the plane. So it was just a real surprise that the plane wasn’t there.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 96]
bullet Sergeant Reginald Powell, a radiologist at the DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic, will say: “I was in awe that I saw no plane, nothing left from the plane. It was like it disintegrated as it went into the building.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 119]
bullet Captain Dennis Gilroy, acting commander of the Fort Myer Fire Department, reportedly “wondered why he saw no aircraft parts” when he arrives at the scene. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 68]
Other witnesses will say they come across some pieces of plane debris:
bullet Rich Fitzharris, an electrical engineer working at the Pentagon, later remembers seeing “small pieces of debris, the largest of which might have been part of an engine shroud.” [Mlakar et al., 1/2003, pp. 13 pdf file]
bullet Allyn Kilsheimer, a structural engineer who arrives at the Pentagon at about 5:00 p.m., will recall: “I picked up parts of the plane with the airline markings on them. I held in my hand the tail section of the plane.” [Popular Mechanics, 3/2005; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 100]
Later on during the day, the FBI arranges a search of the lawn in front of the crash site. According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack: “Although much of the plane disintegrated within the Pentagon, the searchers found many scraps and a few personal items widely scattered on the grass and heliport. Plane remnants varied from half-dollar size to a few feet long.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] Also, one photo will show what appears to be plane debris on the lawn in front of the Pentagon, with the red, white, and blue stripes of American Airlines. [Knight Ridder, 4/28/2002]

Entity Tags: Allyn Kilsheimer, Keith E. Bohn, Brian Ladd, Eileen Murphy, Reginald Powell, Ronald A. Galey, Jamie McIntyre, Rich Fitzharris, Steve DeChiaro, Sheryl Alleger, John Durrer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Chris Braman.Chris Braman. [Source: California State University, Fullerton]A number of witnesses hear secondary explosions inside the Pentagon in the immediate aftermath of the attack there. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/11/2001] Some possible explanations are later suggested for these explosions, though their exact causes are unclear.
bullet Captain William Toti, the special assistant to the vice chief of naval operations, hears and feels numerous explosions while he assists in the rescue efforts at the crash site. [Proceedings, 9/2002; Washington Post, 11/17/2006; McKinney Courier-Gazette, 9/12/2008] A month later, Toti will recall, “One of the things I haven’t seen reported in any of the papers was that periodically, for about the next hour [after he arrives at the crash site], there were secondary explosions going off in the hole in the Pentagon.” While he is standing about 30 yards from the point of impact, Toti hears “pop… pop, pop… pop, pop, pop… pop.” He will say these explosions are “loud. Scary, absolutely scary. The make-you-jump kind of explosions.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] Toti and two Army officers that assist him with the rescue efforts fear the explosions, which come from “the fissure” in the building, “are bombs.” [Washington Post, 11/17/2006] But, Toti will recall, about an hour after he arrives at the crash site, he is “standing with some FBI guys and we were musing as to what the source of the explosions was, and we concluded that they were the oxygen canisters from the airplane. You know, the things [that] produce oxygen for the passengers in an emergency.” Toti will say this possible explanation is the “best thing we could think of.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001]
bullet Army Lieutenant Colonel Ted Anderson and Army Staff Sergeant Chris Braman go into the Pentagon near the crash site to rescue injured victims. They are reportedly “stunned by secondary explosions.” One of these is a “fire department car exploding,” according to Anderson. The causes of the other explosions are unclear. [Newsweek, 9/28/2001; Washington Post, 9/8/2002]
bullet Lieutenant Commander David Tarantino, a Navy flight surgeon, and Navy Captain David Thomas go into the Pentagon to search for survivors. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 54-55] They feel “secondary explosions and wondered whether the whole building would cave in or if they were under more attacks,” according to The Washingtonian. [Washingtonian, 12/2001] Tarantino will later recall that there are “secondary explosions going on.” [US Naval Historical Center, 9/25/2001]
bullet Colonel Jonathan Fruendt, an Army physician, is heading toward the Pentagon’s center courtyard shortly after the crash when he hears an explosion. “I heard another loud boom,” he will later recall. As soon as the explosion occurs, people in the corridor with Fruendt “instantly froze in position, and then they turned around and started running back, away from the exit.” Fruendt will later comment: “No one has really explained to me exactly what that noise was. Some people said, later, maybe it was some fuel or one of these vehicles, something around the original crash site that blew up.… Other people said it was a sonic boom from the fighters that were flying over the Pentagon.” But, he will add, “No one has ever confirmed [the cause of the explosion] with me.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 73-74]
bullet Some witnesses say the crash at the Pentagon is “followed by an explosion about 15 minutes later that could be heard miles away,” according to the New York Times. This is “apparently the sound of a large portion of the Pentagon collapsing,” the Times will report. [New York Times, 9/12/2001] However, that section of the Pentagon collapses at 10:15 a.m., more than 35 minutes after the crash (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 19]

Entity Tags: David Thomas, Christopher D. Braman, Jonathan Fruendt, David Tarantino, Ted Anderson, William J. Toti, Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


The wall where the Pentagon was hit before and after its collapsed at 10:15.
The wall where the Pentagon was hit before and after its collapsed at 10:15. [Source: Jason Ingersoll, public domain] (click image to enlarge)The front section of the Pentagon that had been hit by Flight 77 collapses. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] A few minutes prior to its collapse, firefighters saw warning signs and sounded a general evacuation tone. No firefighters were injured. [NFPA Journal, 11/1/2001]

Entity Tags: Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The first two of five stills of the Pentagon impact.The first two of five stills of the Pentagon impact. [Source: Public domain]A series of photos surfaces purporting to show a plane crashing into the Pentagon on 9/11. It is not clear who released the photos, but the Pentagon asserts that they are authentic and were taken by a Pentagon security camera. The release of these pictures comes within days of the publication of the book l’Effroyable Imposture that disputes the claim that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon (see Early March 2002). “Officials could not immediately explain why the date typed near the bottom of each photograph is September 12 and the time is written as 5:37 p.m.,” the book notes. [US department of Defense, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 3/8/2002; Fox News, 3/8/2002] The whole video, together with another also taken by a Pentagon security camera, will be released in 2006 (see May 16, 2006). [Associated Press, 5/17/2006]

Entity Tags: Pentagon

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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