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After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001: Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz Leaves the Pentagon but Then Returns and Goes to the Command Center

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is initially evacuated from the Pentagon after it is attacked but he subsequently returns to the building and joins other senior officials in the National Military Command Center (NMCC). Wolfowitz saw the second crash at the World Trade Center on the television in his office at the Pentagon, but did nothing in response to it and instead continued with a routine meeting (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Wolfowitz Thought the Pentagon Attack Was an Earthquake - He was still in his office when the Pentagon was attacked, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Although his office is on the opposite side of the building to where the attack occurred, he felt the building shake from the impact. He also heard the crash. “I think I heard it, a dull, thud-like noise,” he will later recall. And yet, despite being aware of the crashes at the WTC, he initially thought the shaking was caused by an earthquake, rather than another attack. “I didn’t put the two things together in my mind,” he will comment. He therefore initially did nothing in response. “It was clear something had happened, but it still wasn’t clear that there was anything to do,” he will say.
Wolfowitz Is Evacuated from the Pentagon - Wolfowitz only reacts to the incident when he hears someone saying a bomb has gone off on the other side of the Pentagon and the building needs to be evacuated. By now, alarm bells are sounding and people are streaming out of the building. A Marine sergeant who works outside Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s office is anxious to get Wolfowitz away from the Pentagon. The deputy secretary of defense is therefore evacuated from the building and then gathers with others on the parade ground in front of it. After spending about 10 minutes there, he receives the instruction to return to the Pentagon, apparently from someone in Rumsfeld’s office. He therefore gets into his car, is driven to an entrance, and walks into the building. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/19/2002 pdf file; PBS Frontline, 4/22/2002; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003]
Wolfowitz Goes to the Command Center - After returning to the Pentagon, Wolfowitz possibly goes to the Executive Support Center on the building’s third floor. Victoria Clarke, the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, will recall seeing him there sometime after the Pentagon is hit. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/2/2002 pdf file] Wolfowitz will say only that he goes to the NMCC after returning to the Pentagon. The time he arrives there is unstated. Other senior officials with him in the NMCC include Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the NMCC, Wolfowitz participates in a secure video conference. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 4/19/2002 pdf file; PBS Frontline, 4/22/2002; Vanity Fair, 5/9/2003] After spending some time there, he will be flown to Raven Rock, the alternate command center outside Washington, DC (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 132; Vogel, 2007, pp. 441; Graff, 2017, pp. 347-348]

Entity Tags: Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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