September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Story:My office at NASA HQ faced the south looking over 395 leading into Virginia and past the Pentagon (about 1/4 to 1/2 mile away from the Pentagon). I was in a meeting when a member of my staff informed me that a plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Shortly after the same staff member informed me that another plane hit the other tower and "apparently somebody bombed the Pentagon." I recall immediately turning around and looking out my window towards the Pentagon and seeing the smoke from the fire. It took a little while for everybody to figure out that it was actually another plane that hit the Pentagon. In any case, it was shortlly afterward that we heard the news that another unaccounted plane was heading towards DC; presumably to hit the White House or Capitol. Shortly thereafter we recieved the news that Washington, DC was being evacuated. I recall gathering my staff and advising them that whatever they felt comfortable doing was fine, i.e., stay in the building or evacuate and go home. All of my staff chose to leave and I decided to stay. I stayed in the NASA HQ building (mostly on the roof trying to contact my family via cell phone and looking out at the Pentagon) until about 1:30 pm. By then, Washington, DC was almost completely if not completely evacuated. I have several surreal memories of 9/11 in Washington DC, but 2 memories are particularly poignant. The first was looking down from the roof of the NASA HQ building and seeing only miliatary vehicles and police speeding around the streets. At that moment, I knew life in Washington, DC (or in our contry for that matter) would never be the same. It was almost as if Marshall Law had been imposed and we had become a militaary state. The second thing I particularly remember was driving home via 395 South past the Pentagon burning. For some reason the wind was blowing across the Pentagon and over 395, and I remember the ungodly smell of the fire. It was not the smell of a "normal" building on fire. Rather it was the smell of death of many of our beloved coworkers and family members. I'll never forget that smell as long as I live; no matter how much I'd like to forget it.