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Context of '8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001: Preparations Underway at Pentagon for President Bush’s Arrival Later in the Day'

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Fire truck parked outside the Pentagon.Fire truck parked outside the Pentagon. [Source: Jon Culberson]Preparations are underway at the Pentagon heliport, located about 150 feet from the west side of the building, for the expected arrival of President Bush at around midday. Bush had left from the Pentagon the previous day for his visit to Florida. He occasionally uses the Pentagon heliport rather than the White House grounds when going by helicopter to and from Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 64] The White House grounds are unavailable because the annual Congressional picnic is scheduled to take place there this afternoon. The White House hosts this event for members of Congress and select staffers; around 1,200 guests are due to attend, until the attacks lead to it being canceled. [Scripps Howard News Service, 9/11/2001; Scheib and Friedman, 2007, pp. 254-255; Hayes, 2007, pp. 344] Three firefighters from the fire department at nearby Fort Myer had arrived at the Pentagon at around 7:30 a.m. to man the fire station next to the heliport. [Newsweek, 9/28/2001; JEMS, 4/2002, pp. 22 pdf file; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 65] “Every day they have an aircraft flying, we’re there,” firefighter Alan Wallace will later explain. [Pentagram, 9/14/2001] Wallace decides to pull the fire truck out of the fire station and place it in a position more accessible to the heliport landing pad. [First Due News, 4/17/2003] The truck is equipped with the special chemical foam used in fighting jet fuel fires. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 65] Wallace parks it about 15 feet from the Pentagon’s west wall, facing toward the landing pad. Wallace will recall that with many vehicles—belonging to the Secret Service and other agencies—expected to be around for the president’s arrival, he “wanted the crash truck out of the station and parked in a good location, for easy access to the heliport in case of an emergency.” [First Due News, 4/17/2003] When the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m., the aircraft will crash into an area of the building next to the heliport (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/12/2001; American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Alan Wallace, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Alan Wallace.Alan Wallace. [Source: Michael Norris]A fire chief calls his firefighters who are manning the fire station at the Pentagon’s heliport, and warns them that there could be more attacks, and Washington could be a target. [First Due News, 4/17/2003; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 20-21] Chief Charles Campbell works with the fire department at Fort Myer, an army base 1.5 miles northwest of the Pentagon, which sends three of its firefighters each day to man the fire station at the Pentagon heliport. [Pentagram, 11/2/2001] Campbell calls the station to make sure his firefighters there—Alan Wallace, Mark Skipper, and Dennis Young—are aware of what is going on in New York. He tells them, “These were intentional acts of terrorism.” He speaks “to each of the three firefighters, making sure they [are] all on their toes and ready to respond to an unexpected incident.” Wallace will recall that Campbell “wanted to be sure we were aware of everything going on around the fire station.” Campbell says there could be more attacks, and that “If it had happened in New York, it could happen in Washington.” As Wallace recalls, Campbell says “Washington, DC could very well be a target and if that happened, our fire truck could be dispatched to an incident.” [First Due News, 4/17/2003; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 20-21] Yet, while Campbell believes an attack on Washington is likely, neither the Pentagon nor any government buildings in Washington will be evacuated before the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/16/2001] The Fort Myer firefighters will narrowly escape suffering serious injuries when the Pentagon attack occurs (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pentagram, 11/2/2001]

Entity Tags: Charles Campbell, Dennis Young, Alan Wallace, Mark Skipper

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In response to an emergency 911 telephone call, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center dispatches several units to deal with an apartment fire at 1003 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn, Virginia—within the vicinity of the Pentagon. Because this fire is in a high-rise building, nine different fire and medical service units are dispatched. However, the first engine crew to arrive radios to the other units that the fire has gone out. Consequently, by “sheer coincidence,” at the time when the Pentagon is hit, there are a significant number of available fire and medical service units already on the road nearby. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A9 pdf file; Fire Engineering, 11/2002] Assistant Chief James Schwartz of the Arlington County Fire Department will later recall that, around this time, firefighters are dispatched in response to an alarm at the high-rise USA Today complex in Rosslyn (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The address of the complex is 1000 and 1110 Wilson Boulevard, suggesting this is in fact the same incident as the “apartment fire” at 1003 Wilson Boulevard. [Washington Business Journal, 9/7/2001; McClatchy Washington Bureau, 2008] Furthermore, apparently around this same time, soldiers from a bomb ordnance disposal unit at Fort Belvoir, 12 miles south of the Pentagon, are on their way to do a sweep of the Pentagon heliport, ready for the expected arrival of the president there at around midday (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 64-65]

Entity Tags: Arlington County Emergency Communications Center, James Schwartz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Internet researchers have put together this image showing how an object the size of a jumbo jet clips a number of light poles and then destroys columns inside the Pentagon. [From  website]
Internet researchers have put together this image showing how an object the size of a jumbo jet clips a number of light poles and then destroys columns inside the Pentagon. [From website] [Source: Eric Bart] (click image to enlarge)Fireman Alan Wallace is busy with a safety crew at the Pentagon’s heliport pad. As Wallace is walking in front of the Pentagon, he looks up and sees Flight 77 coming straight at him. It is about 25 feet off the ground, with no landing wheels visible, a few hundred yards away, and closing fast. He runs about 30 feet and dives under a nearby van. [Washington Post, 9/21/2001] The plane is traveling at about 460 mph, and flying so low that it clips the tops of streetlights. [CBS News, 9/21/2001] Using the radio in the van, he calls his fire chief at nearby Fort Myer and says, “We have had a commercial carrier crash into the west side of the Pentagon at the heliport, Washington Boulevard side. The crew is OK. The airplane was a 757 Boeing or a 320 Airbus.” [Scripps Howard News Service, 8/1/2002]

Entity Tags: Pentagon, Fort Myer, Alan Wallace

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

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