It was the first day back from maternity leave. My baby girl was just 2 months old, and I was returning to work at Andrew Rader Health Clinic in Ft. Myer, VA. It was a calm day, just adjusting myself to the new routing. My cesarean section was still healing…my body was sore.
I remember that I was taking care of the window, helping some patients with their medical records. I had just finished checking on Jason, who was working on a cast for a service member. There was a TV, in the waiting area, and some nurses were actually learning about the attack in NY…I was walking back to my area when all of a sudden, a loud noise, and the entire building shook…for a few seconds, everyone stood still…then a nurse rushes inside of the building screaming that a plane crashed into the Pentagon.
Chaos erupted…my husband rushed to grab the keys to the ambulance, and that was the last time I saw him that morning. Chaos, all officers wandering around, Company Commander was a newcomer you could see the fear in his eyes. Obviously in a position of leadership, all soldiers are standing by waiting for his instructions. Then first sergeants and some other sergeants took control. I have to say that I most proud of my husband and my NCO for their calm and professional way of dealing with such a chaotic situation.
Some of us stayed back, waiting for injured people to come from the Pentagon. We witnessed the Marines taking control on top of the buildings ready to fire. We witnessed people coming into the clinic with injuries…but not what we expected…only a handful was treated at the clinic, those with minor injuries. The rest burned inside the Pentagon or were transported to major hospitals in the DC area.
We rushed to the Pentagon, it was less than a mile away…and what I saw…was a moment in history that will stay in my mind forever. A big hole in the Pentagon…dark smoke, flames, soldiers and civilian personnel all scattered outside, metal parts all over the yard…
I witnessed some of our doctors rushing inside the Pentagon, in an attempt to rescue people…but the smoke was so thick, visibility was none, it was not safe for them to enter the building. I saw grown man, crying in disbelief that they could not go inside the Pentagon to rescue their fellow comrades, family and friends.
Fireman, rushed to the scene, attempted to put out the fire, that was a big task…with gallons and gallons of fuel…it was almost impossible. Then the walls collapse…sealing the faith of those inside that wing of the Pentagon. It was a nightmare…the raw emotions of those human beings is something that I will never forget, the smell, the not knowing where my husband was…the fear of having an airplane in the air, flying all over the area, and my newborn child in an apartment in the center of the action…with my mother and youngest brother, no cell phone to call…I was so scared.
That day started at 0600…and I finally saw my husband again at 2100…distraught…overwhelmed…sunburn and tired. We were dismissed that night, drove home, and finally met with our baby girl. Flags were hung everywhere…from windows, cars, people holding the flags, restaurants provided free meals for all those first responders…so many lives were lost…
I remember we had to evacuate the building, at the clinic, because there was another airplane in the air. But I also knew that I had to find a way to call my father and Jason’s family in NC to let them know we were alive. I rushed back inside the building, call my dad…as soon as he hear my voice he broke down and cried. I explained that I couldn’t talk that I just needed him to know that we were OK. Then call my sister-in-law law and explained to her that Jason and I were OK. Called my mom, gave her instructions to get into the basement with my child…
Days after that tragedy…we still had all the raw emotions of the day…from having to go through checkpoints, every day, having vehicles search, providing guard to various hospitals in the area…I mean it was something that you couldn’t grasp…like something that you only see in movies. After that infamous day, many people who were about to end their obligation with the Armed Forces, decided to re-enlist. They wanted revenge, they wanted pay back…and they did.
So much more I can share…but no time…just know that all the amazing people serving in the Armed Forces are people just like you, with families, feelings and emotions…the only difference between you and them, is that they are willing to die for this country. Salute your armed forces, thank them….because FREEDOM is NOT FREE.