[Ed. – Aim High, shipmate.]
Word arrived of another inbound aircraft, and organized chaos became total chaos when we realized there were nearly 23,000 people standing in the open visible from the air. The crowd quickly dispersed to areas further away from the building. I remember seeing some Pentagon day care center workers calmly leading the children in their charge away and how out of place they seemed against a backdrop of enormous flames and smoke from the crash site. …
A call came for volunteers to re-enter the Pentagon to help rescue more survivors. There was no hesitation from those that responded. Teams were formed; names were recorded on a piece of paper that was passed around in case the worst happened. Makeshift breathing masks were made with wet shirts as these men and women went back into the burning Pentagon. The acrid smoke was so thick you couldn’t see beyond more than a few feet.
These teams worked throughout the day from inside the Pentagon courtyard attempting to rescue the wounded, even as the intense fire and heat repeatedly pushed them back. Some worked their way to the crash site where American Flight 77’s cockpit had burst through its final wall.
Debris and fire spewed into the alleyway between two of the Pentagon rings. Eventually the point was reached where the mission was forced to change from one of rescue to one of assisting the fire fighting, engineering, and FBI teams that were trying to save the building and preserve the crash site for investigation.
This group of volunteers was remarkable beyond description. They were not simply civilian and military men and women with rank or status… they were Americans, all working equally in a common cause. They faced unknown dangers with unlimited courage. Without hesitation, they asked no questions as they comforted and cared for the injured.
In the best of the American tradition of selfless sacrifice they saw that action was needed… and responded.