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Shortly Before 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001: Park Police Helicopter Is Instructed to Intercept the Plane Approaching the Pentagon

A helicopter belonging to the US Park Police Aviation Unit.A helicopter belonging to the US Park Police Aviation Unit. [Source: United States Park Police]A US Park Police helicopter is directed to intercept the aircraft that subsequently hits the Pentagon, according to the later statements of US Navy historian John Darrell Sherwood. The helicopter’s pilot reportedly describes the incident when later interviewed by a US Marine Corps historian. Details of the pilot’s account are then revealed by Sherwood, who is a colleague of the Marine Corps historian, while he is interviewing Jeffrey Mark Parsons of the United States Border Patrol about his experiences of the 9/11 attacks.
Pilot Is Told to Prevent the Plane from Hitting the Pentagon - According to Sherwood, the helicopter pilot, who is “an aviation sergeant with the United States Park Police,” is “in the area [of the Pentagon] and he got a call saying, ‘Try to intercept this plane, try to distract the plane, try to do something to, you know, prevent the plane from going into the Pentagon.’” It is unclear from what Sherwood says whether the helicopter is on the ground or already airborne at this time. In response to the instruction, the helicopter goes “to try to distract” the approaching aircraft.
Helicopter Is Witnessed near the Pentagon - What is apparently this Park Police helicopter is then witnessed by Parsons out of a window on the 17th floor of the hotel he is staying at. Parsons sees it flying toward the helicopter landing pad at the Pentagon, two or three minutes before the Pentagon is attacked. [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 258] Other individuals near or inside the Pentagon see what is presumably the same helicopter around this time (see (9:35 a.m.-9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/5/2002; Priess, 2016, pp. 244-245] Parsons has been staying at the Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington, near the Pentagon, for almost a month, but, he will recall, he has “never seen a helicopter approach the Pentagon from that direction before.”
Pilot Sees the Pentagon Attack - At some point, the helicopter lands for a period near the Pentagon. According to Sherwood, it “landed, at one point, near the Memorial Bridge, and there’s that strip of land before you get to the Memorial Cemetery.” Its pilot reportedly witnesses the attack on the Pentagon. He “saw the plane go in, and then the next thing he started doing is medevacing people out of there,” according to Sherwood. When told while being interviewed by Sherwood that the helicopter pilot is instructed to intercept a plane approaching the Pentagon, Parsons will ask, “Then they knew [the plane] was headed toward the Pentagon before it actually hit the Pentagon, then?” To this, Sherwood will only answer, “I guess that helicopter swung around, but by the time he got around, the plane was already into the building.”
Park Police Flies Huey Helicopters - The helicopter is a white and blue Huey, according to Sherwood. [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001] The Park Police Aviation Unit has two Bell 412 helicopters. [Aviation International News, 10/1/2001; Rotor and Wing, 11/2001; Rotor and Wing, 2/2002; National Park Service, 10/16/2004] (The Bell 412 is a more modern version of the “Huey” helicopter. [New York Times, 8/24/2003; USA Today, 10/25/2007] ) The aviation unit is located in Anacostia Park in southeast Washington, across the Potomac River from the Pentagon. [Aviation International News, 10/1/2001; National Park Service, 10/16/2004]
Witness Will Be Told, 'Don't Tell Anyone about' the Incident - Most accounts of the unit’s actions on this day will make no mention of this incident, and only describe Park Police helicopters taking off in the minutes after the attack on the Pentagon (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001; NBC 4, 9/11/2003; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 20 pdf file; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 161-162] However, it appears there may be an attempt to keep the incident secret. After Parsons recalls seeing the helicopter near the Pentagon minutes before the attack there, Sherwood will instruct him: “Don’t tell anyone about that story, because that’s one of our, I think that’s one of the best stories that’s going to come out of this. We don’t want the press to get this.” [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Jeffrey Mark Parsons, John Darrell Sherwood, United States Park Police

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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