Plane crashes into the Pentagon
BY RON FOURNIER Associated Press
Sep 11, 2001
Flames and smoke pour from the Pentagon on Tuesday after a direct,
devastating hit from an aircraft.
WILL MORRIS / Associated Press
Fatalities unknown; buildings evacuated; troops deployed
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon took a direct, devastating hit from an aircraft and
the enduring symbols of American power were evacuated Tuesday as an apparent terrorist attack
quickly spread fear and chaos in the nation's capital.
President Bush, in Florida at the time of the attack, canceled plans to return to Washington
and was flown aboard Air Force One to the safety of a military installation at Barksdale Air
Force Base in Louisiana.
The nerve center of the nation's military burst into flames and a portion of one side of the
five-sided structure collapsed when the plane struck in midmorning. Secondary explosions were
reported in the aftermath of the attack and great billows of smoke drifted skyward toward the
Potomac River and the city beyond.
Glenn Flood, a Pentagon spokesman, said there were "extensive casualties and an unknown
number of fatalities. "We don't know the extent of the injuries," he said.
Terrorism against our nation will not stand," Bush vowed on a morning when not only Washington
was struck, but the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York were hit by planes and
Bush was in Florida when the strike occurred. Vice President Dick Cheney was in Washington
and he and first lady Laura Bush were taken to an undisclosed secure location, officials said.
Congressional leaders were hustled away from the Capitol to safety.
"The leadership of the Defense Department is OK. The secretary (Donald H. Rumsfeld) is OK,"
Flood told reporters.
Authorities immediately began deploying troops, including a regiment of light infantry.
The departments of Justice, State, Treasury and Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency
were evacuated -- an estimated 20,000 at the Pentagon alone. Agents with automatic weapons
patrolled the White House grounds.
And the FAA ordered the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down
for the first time in history.
There was no attempt to minimize the impact.
"This is the second Pearl Harbor. I don't think that I overstate it," said Sen. Chuck Hagel,
R-Neb., referring to the attack 60 years ago that surprised the nation's intelligence apparatus
and propelled the country into World War II.
With Bush away from the capital, his advisers were preparing a list of options, including
closing the nation's borders, according to a senior U.S. official.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was premature to discuss military
options because investigators were still trying to determine who was responsible for the
Away from the Pentagon, unexplained explosions were reported in the vicinity of the State
Department and the Capitol.
A torrent of people rushed from their office buildings throughout the nation's capital,
eager to leave a city under siege. The cell phone networks were overloaded, clusters of people
sprayed on the sidewalks and at least
one suburban school district announced plans to close early.
The Pentagon was hit a short while after the World Trade Center was struck. a plane,
described by witnesses as a jetliner, made impact in the portion of the building on the side
opposite from where Rumsfeld's offices are located.
Paul Begala, a Democratic consultant, said he witnessed an explosion near the Pentagon,
saying it sent a huge, orange fireball skyward.
AP reporter Dave Winslow also saw the crash. He said, "I saw the tail of a large airliner.
... It plowed right into the Pentagon."
Gen. Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that prior to the crash
into the Pentagon, military officials had been notified that another hijacked plane had been
heading from the New York area to Washington. He said he assumed that hijacked plane was the
one that hit the Pentagon, though he couldn't be sure.
One of two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center was hijacked after takeoff from
Boston and headed
to Los Angeles with 92 aboard, American Airlines disclosed.
The second plane may have flown out of Newark, N.J., the official said, speaking on
condition of anonymity.
Asked if there was any possibility the crashes were anything other than deliberate, a
government official said it appeared not to be an accident.