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Profile: Tom O’Connor
Tom O’Connor was a participant or observer in the following events:
Personnel from several agencies searching for evidence at the Pentagon. [Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation]Beginning shortly before midday on September 11, 2001, and continuing until September 12, the FBI conducts a careful search across the grounds of the Pentagon, looking for remnants of the aircraft that hit the building. [PBS, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon. His first priority is to locate and gather all the airplane parts and other pieces of evidence from the lawn on the west side of the building. He sends out all available agents to conduct a grid search. The lawn is divided into quadrants, and then agents walk back and forth, sticking a small flag near any evidence they find, getting the evidence photographed in its place, and then scooping it into a bag. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 180] Arlington police officers, military personnel, and others also participate in the search. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] They also look for evidence across grass and roadways several hundred yards from the Pentagon. [PBS, 9/12/2001] Some pieces of the aircraft that hit the Pentagon are found nearly 1,000 feet away from the building, on the other side of Washington Boulevard. Thousands of tiny pieces of aluminum have also carried forward over the Pentagon, into its center courtyard. Other pieces of debris landed on its roof, along with body parts from at least one victim. [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 29] According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack, the searchers find “many scraps and a few personal items widely scattered on the grass and heliport. Plane remnants varied from half-dollar size to a few feet long.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 159] Authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman will describe: “Agents found what looked like a big Plexiglas windowpane on the lawn, which might have been part of an airplane window, except it was too big.… Somebody suggested it could be one of the blast-proof windows from the Pentagon, somehow blown 500 feet from the building.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 180]
Garrett McKenzie. [Source: Rudi Williams]Photographers who are taking pictures at the Pentagon, to document the scene of the attack there in as close as possible to its original state, are told to limit what evidence they photograph. FBI Special Agent Tom O’Connor—who is in charge of the initial evidence recovery operation at the Pentagon—and his superiors have put out the word that it is unnecessary to document every piece of the airplane. This is because, reportedly, “the smaller fragments didn’t prove anything, except that there was an airplane there, which was obvious enough from other evidence.” FBI Special Agent Garrett McKenzie, who is coordinating the effort to photograph evidence at the Pentagon, pulls together a dozen photographers for a briefing. He instructs them: “We don’t need to photograph all the plane parts, only unique airplane parts or something specific. Like the pilot’s yoke, or anything with part of a serial number on it. If we have to prove what kind of plane this was, the serial numbers will be what we need.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 181-183]
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