Profile: William J. Toti
William J. Toti was a participant or observer in the following events:
William Toti. [Source: University of Texas-Pan American]Those working in the office of the vice chief of naval operations (VCNO) at the Pentagon realize that the first plane hitting the World Trade Center is a terrorist attack as soon as they learn of it from television reports, and soon conclude that if this is an organized attack, the Pentagon will be a likely target. Those currently in the office, which is on the fourth floor of the Pentagon’s E-ring, include Captain William Toti, special assistant to the VCNO; Rear Admiral William Douglas Crowder, executive assistant to the VCNO; Commander David Radi, deputy executive assistant to the VCNO; Dee Karnhan, the VCNO’s secretary; and the VCNO’s writer, whom Toti will later refer to only as “Chief LaFleur.” Admiral William Fallon, the VCNO, is currently down the hall in the office of Admiral Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001; Washington Post, 11/17/2006]
'Everyone' in Office Realizes First Crash Is Terrorism - Toti will later recall that the morning has, until now, been “very routine, very normal.” The first sign of anything unusual is when he hears LaFleur yelling from the VCNO’s outer office, “Holy sh_t, look at that!” LaFleur has noticed CNN showing the burning WTC on television. The television in the VCNO’s outer office is kept on all the time. According to Toti, TV reports will be “our first indication when major events are happening in the world.” Toti goes to the outer office and turns up the volume on the TV, to find out what is happening. He will recall that CNN is reporting that “a small plane had run into the World Trade Center. They were theorizing that it was probably because a navigational beacon had malfunctioned.” Toti will comment that he is “a private pilot, and I know there is no way in hell that any pilot is going to run into the World Trade Center on a clear day like that, navigational beacon or not. It was clear to me, as I think it was to everyone else in the room, that this was not an accident: somebody had collided with the World Trade Center on purpose.” Toti will add: “We began talking about that immediately… and we knew without a doubt that this was a terrorist attack. The question was, ‘Is this it, or is there more to it?’”
Officers Conclude Pentagon Is a Likely Target - Those in the office start discussing whether there could be more attacks. Toti will recall: “We started talking about options. If [the terrorists] are hitting New York, the only other place that makes sense to hit—New York is the capital of our economy, Washington is the capital of our government—okay, they’re going to hit Washington if this is an organized attack.” LaFleur says that if the terrorists are going to attack Washington, “Then they’re going to go after the White House,” but Toti disagrees, saying, “No, there’s only one building in DC that shares the characteristics of the World Trade Center.” Toti notes that the WTC is “symbolic, it houses a lot of people, and it’s easy to hit from the air.” He will later state, “If you go through the list of buildings in DC—remember, we are doing this before the second tower is hit—we’re saying symbolic: White House, Capitol building, the Pentagon; houses a lot of people: the Pentagon; easy to hit by air: Pentagon and the Capitol, too.” Toti therefore concludes: “The only building that makes sense is the Pentagon.… At this point, if [the terrorists] hit any place, they are going to hit this building.” While those in the VCNO’s office are discussing how the Pentagon is “a likely target,” they see the second plane hitting the WTC live on television, at 9:03 a.m. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] Despite their concerns, no steps will be taken to evacuate the Pentagon or alert workers there before the building is attacked (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vogel, 2007, pp. 429]
Officer Astonished When Pentagon Hit, 'Exactly Like We Had Visualized' - Toti will later recall the unease he feels when the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m., just as he and his colleagues predicted. After the Pentagon is hit, Toti will say, he is “out there saying, ‘Am I dreaming?’ I’m saying: ‘Is this really happening? Am I dreaming? How could we have predicted it like that? How could we have known it was coming? How could this be happening exactly like we had visualized just moments before?’ But it did.” He will say that “for us, this [attack] was unfolding as if we were writing a script. It was really bizarre. To this day, I’m shocked that we had got it so right so early.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001]
William Douglas Crowder. [Source: US Navy]A senior Navy officer at the Pentagon is told in a phone call that another hijacked aircraft is heading toward Washington, DC, and yet he tells a colleague who also receives this news to keep the information to himself. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] Rear Admiral William Douglas Crowder is the executive assistant to Admiral William Fallon, the vice chief of naval operations. [US Department of Defense, 9/26/2001; Proceedings, 9/2002] He is working in Fallon’s office, on the fourth floor of the Pentagon’s E-ring. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001; Washington Post, 11/17/2006] Fallon is currently down the hall, in the office of Admiral Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations. Those in Fallon’s office are aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center, and have speculated that if this is an organized attack, then Washington, and specifically the Pentagon, is a likely target (see (8:48 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Crowder Told of Plane Approaching Washington - Crowder now answers a call from the Navy Command Center, which is on the first floor of the Pentagon’s southwest face. His deputy, Commander David Radi, listens in on the call, as he is required to. Captain William Toti, the special assistant to the vice chief of naval operations, will later describe what Crowder is told. Toti will recall, “I was not listening in, but the gist of the conversation was there’s another airplane that’s been hijacked that’s heading towards Washington.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] (An intelligence unit located within the Navy Command Center was recently notified of “indications of another aircraft that’s been hijacked” and that is “heading out to DC” (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 9/11/2002] ) Crowder replies to the caller, “Okay, got it.”
Crowder Instructs Deputy to Keep Information Secret - Radi appears afraid. Presumably referring to the office staff’s prediction of a possible attack on the Pentagon, he says: “Holy sh_t. Captain Toti, it’s coming true.” Crowder runs out of the office to go and tell Fallon what he has just learned. But as he is heading out, he calls back to Radi: “That’s close hold. Don’t tell anybody what you just heard.” Toti will comment, “Remember that Crowder and Radi are the only two people who heard” about the approaching hijacked plane. Just then, the Pentagon is hit: “Not 30 seconds after Crowder hangs up and runs out the door,” Toti will recall, “we hear the airplane, the jet engines, and feel impact. The building shook like an earthquake. We heard the explosion.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] No steps have been taken to evacuate the Pentagon or alert its workers before the building is hit (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vogel, 2007, pp. 429]
Officer Finds Crowder's Order 'Peculiar' - In an interview a month later, Toti will reflect: “In retrospect, I wonder what the hell was close hold about that fact that there was a hijacked airplane coming in towards the Pentagon. If anything, it would have been nice to alert people of that.” He will add that he has not asked Crowder “why he said that,” but says Crowder’s instruction to Radi “stuck out in [my] mind at the time as kind of a peculiar thing to say.”
Officer Told Not to Go to Command Center - Toti’s life is likely saved because, just before the call about the approaching plane is received, Crowder told him not to go to the Navy Command Center—a part of the Pentagon that suffers serious damage when the building is hit. After seeing the burning WTC on television, Toti had been uncomfortable that his office had not received any information about what was going on from the Command Center. After “a few minutes of hearing nothing,” he had suggested to Crowder “that I go to the ops center to see if they had any information we should pass to senior Navy leadership.” But, as Toti was heading out the door toward the Command Center, Crowder instructed him: “Wait, give them another minute. If they don’t call by then, you can go down.” Toti therefore returned to his desk. “Just then,” Toti will recall, Crowder receives the call from the Command Center about the hijacked plane approaching Washington. [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001; Proceedings, 9/2002] Much of the Navy Command Center is destroyed when the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 42 of the 50 people working in it are killed. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; National Defense Magazine, 6/2003] Toti will say that Crowder “probably saved my life.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001]
Chris Braman. [Source: California State University, Fullerton]A number of witnesses hear secondary explosions inside the Pentagon in the immediate aftermath of the attack there. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/11/2001] Some possible explanations are later suggested for these explosions, though their exact causes are unclear.
Captain William Toti, the special assistant to the vice chief of naval operations, hears and feels numerous explosions while he assists in the rescue efforts at the crash site. [Proceedings, 9/2002; Washington Post, 11/17/2006; McKinney Courier-Gazette, 9/12/2008] A month later, Toti will recall, “One of the things I haven’t seen reported in any of the papers was that periodically, for about the next hour [after he arrives at the crash site], there were secondary explosions going off in the hole in the Pentagon.” While he is standing about 30 yards from the point of impact, Toti hears “pop… pop, pop… pop, pop, pop… pop.” He will say these explosions are “loud. Scary, absolutely scary. The make-you-jump kind of explosions.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001] Toti and two Army officers that assist him with the rescue efforts fear the explosions, which come from “the fissure” in the building, “are bombs.” [Washington Post, 11/17/2006] But, Toti will recall, about an hour after he arrives at the crash site, he is “standing with some FBI guys and we were musing as to what the source of the explosions was, and we concluded that they were the oxygen canisters from the airplane. You know, the things [that] produce oxygen for the passengers in an emergency.” Toti will say this possible explanation is the “best thing we could think of.” [US Naval Historical Center, 10/10/2001]
Army Lieutenant Colonel Ted Anderson and Army Staff Sergeant Chris Braman go into the Pentagon near the crash site to rescue injured victims. They are reportedly “stunned by secondary explosions.” One of these is a “fire department car exploding,” according to Anderson. The causes of the other explosions are unclear. [Newsweek, 9/28/2001; Washington Post, 9/8/2002]
Lieutenant Commander David Tarantino, a Navy flight surgeon, and Navy Captain David Thomas go into the Pentagon to search for survivors. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 54-55] They feel “secondary explosions and wondered whether the whole building would cave in or if they were under more attacks,” according to The Washingtonian. [Washingtonian, 12/2001] Tarantino will later recall that there are “secondary explosions going on.” [US Naval Historical Center, 9/25/2001]
Colonel Jonathan Fruendt, an Army physician, is heading toward the Pentagon’s center courtyard shortly after the crash when he hears an explosion. “I heard another loud boom,” he will later recall. As soon as the explosion occurs, people in the corridor with Fruendt “instantly froze in position, and then they turned around and started running back, away from the exit.” Fruendt will later comment: “No one has really explained to me exactly what that noise was. Some people said, later, maybe it was some fuel or one of these vehicles, something around the original crash site that blew up.… Other people said it was a sonic boom from the fighters that were flying over the Pentagon.” But, he will add, “No one has ever confirmed [the cause of the explosion] with me.” [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 73-74]
Some witnesses say the crash at the Pentagon is “followed by an explosion about 15 minutes later that could be heard miles away,” according to the New York Times. This is “apparently the sound of a large portion of the Pentagon collapsing,” the Times will report. [New York Times, 9/12/2001] However, that section of the Pentagon collapses at 10:15 a.m., more than 35 minutes after the crash (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 19]
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