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James Roche, the secretary of the Air Force, learns about the attacks on the World Trade Center in the middle of a meeting with several members of Congress in his office, on the fourth floor of the Pentagon. Among the members of Congress attending the breakfast meeting is Representative Sam Johnson (R-TX). The identities of the other congressmen are unknown. The subject being discussed is, ironically, Islamic fundamentalism. (Richman 12/2003; Gallagher 9/11/2009; Hebert 9/2011 )
Senior Assistant Alerts Roche to First Crash - Colonel Philip Breedlove, Roche’s senior military assistant who is in his own office, located near Roche’s office, learns about the first attack on the WTC when a member of his staff runs in and says, “Sir, you’ve got to look at the TV.” Breedlove looks up at the television in his office and sees the news coverage of the burning North Tower. “I decided I’ve got to go interrupt the breakfast and tell the secretary that we’ve had a horrible accident,” he will later recall. He therefore goes into Roche’s office, kneels beside Roche, and tells him what has happened. Roche excuses himself from the meeting and follows Breedlove to Breedlove’s office, to get a glimpse of the TV coverage and get a feeling of what is going on. As soon as they are in Breedlove’s office, the two men see the live coverage of Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Roche Realizes They Have a 'Big Problem' - Breedlove says to Roche, “Sir, this is not an accident.” Roche says, “My God, we’ve got a big problem here.” “It was real clear to us that our nation had been attacked,” Breedlove will comment. “It was real clear that this was deliberate. What was not clear immediately is the scope and scale. Were there other attacks under way?” The two men make arrangements for the members of Congress to return to their own offices, and then start planning what they and the Air Force headquarters at the Pentagon should do. What actions, if any, they take are unclear. At some point after the second crash at the WTC, General John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff, will join Roche in his office, but the two men will only head to the Air Force Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon after 9:37 a.m., when the building is attacked (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Sharp 9/11/2003; Hebert 9/2011 ; Roughton 9/15/2011)
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