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Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001: Air Force Secretary Roche and Chief of Staff Jumper Head to Operations Center, but Are Unaware that a Plane Has Hit the Pentagon

James Roche.James Roche. [Source: United States Air Force]General John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, and James Roche, the secretary of the Air Force, head to the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon, where they will assist the Air Force’s response to the terrorist attacks. [CNN, 10/10/2001; Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Roche learned about the attacks on the World Trade Center while he was holding a breakfast meeting with several members of Congress in his office on the fourth floor of the Pentagon. He then arranged for the members of Congress to return to their offices, but stayed in his own office (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Jumper learned about the attacks during a staff meeting he was chairing, but initially continued the meeting (see (9:00 a.m.-9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136] He adjourned it at 9:20 a.m., according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. [Daytona Beach News-Journal, 9/7/2004 pdf file] He then headed up to Roche’s office. [Airman, 9/15/2011]
Roche and Jumper Possibly Unaware of Plane Approaching Washington - In the office now with Roche and Jumper are Colonel Philip Breedlove, Roche’s senior military assistant, and Colonel Jack Egginton, executive officer to the Air Force chief of staff. [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] It is unclear whether the men in Roche’s office realized a suspicious aircraft was approaching Washington, DC, before the Pentagon was hit, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Lieutenant General Lance Lord, assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force, will later say that those who attended Jumper’s staff meeting “heard there was another plane inbound to Washington” as they were heading to their offices after the meeting. [Air Force Space Command News Service, 9/5/2002] And Egginton will say that a few minutes before the Pentagon was hit, “We received word that another aircraft was headed toward Washington.” [Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003] But according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Jumper’s staff had “no idea that they [i.e. the Pentagon] would be the next target for terrorists.” [Midland Reporter-Telegram, 4/2/2002]
Roche and Jumper Possibly Initially Unaware that the Pentagon Had Been Attacked - Breedlove will recall that shortly before the Pentagon was hit, while Roche and Jumper had their backs to the window, he and Egginton “saw an airplane go by really close to the building.” People who work at the Pentagon or visit it regularly are used to seeing planes flying by, near the building. “But that one seemed closer than any other,” Breedlove will comment. [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] However, it is unclear whether the men in Roche’s office immediately realized the Pentagon had been attacked when it was hit. The office is on the opposite side of the building to where the attack occurred and so, according to some accounts, Roche and Jumper did not feel the impact. They only realized something was wrong when they saw “people running down the halls and trying to evacuate the premises,” according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram. Roche will say that all he initially knew was that “the building was putting out the alert that something had gone wrong.” “It was amazing, from inside the building, how little we knew about what actually went on,” Tim Green, assistant executive to the Air Force chief of staff, who is with Jumper, will comment. “People outside of the building… probably knew more about what happened from the news than I did.” [CNN, 10/10/2001; Midland Reporter-Telegram, 4/2/2002] Egginton and Breedlove, however, will contradict these accounts. “I felt the building shake upon impact,” Egginton will say. Breedlove will recall, “We felt a tremor in the building and then alarms start flashing.”
Roche and Jumper Taken to Operations Center - Breedlove will say that, in response to the attack on the Pentagon, he promptly arranges for Jumper and Roche to be escorted to the Air Force Operations Center, in the basement of the Pentagon’s C Ring. He will recall that he hits the “duress button” and then security officers enter Roche’s office almost immediately. “We said, ‘We need to get to the bunker; we need to get down to our operations area,’” he will say. [Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Roche, though, will give a different account. He will say that his office had been “on the phone to our Operations Center” and then “we were called down,” presumably by whoever they were talking to in the Operations Center. [CNN, 10/10/2001] Roche and Jumper are escorted to the Operations Center through “smoke, alarms, and throngs of people heading for the exits,” Egginton will recall. [Air Force Print News, 9/11/2003]
Roche and Jumper Learn a Plane Hit the Pentagon - In the Operations Center, members of the Air Force Crisis Action Team have already begun to assemble so as to help provide assistance to civil authorities in New York (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 136] When Roche and Jumper reach the center, they will learn that the Pentagon has been hit by an aircraft (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 10/10/2001] Other Air Force officials, including Lord, also head to the Operations Center after the Pentagon is hit. [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2003]

Entity Tags: John P. Jumper, Lance Lord, Philip M. Breedlove, Jack B. Egginton, James G. Roche, Tim Green

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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