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Flight 77: Some Eyewitness Accounts

"On a Metro train to National Airport, Allen Cleveland looked out the window to see a jet heading down toward the Pentagon. 'I thought, "There's no landing strip on that side of the subway tracks,"' he said. Before he could process that thought, he saw 'a huge mushroom cloud. The lady next to me was in absolute hysterics.'"
- "Our Plane Is Being Hijacked." Washington Post, 12 Sep 2001

"I was supposed to have been going to the Pentagon Tuesday morning at about 11:00am (EDT) and was getting ready, and thank goodness I wasn't going to be going until later. It was so shocking, I was listening to the news on what had happened in New York, and just happened to look out the window because I heard a low flying plane and then I saw it hit the Pentagon. It happened so fast... it was in the air one moment and in the building the next..."
- "U.S. Under Attack: Your Eyewitness Accounts." BBC News, 14 Sep 2001

"As I approached the Pentagon, which was still not quite in view, listening on the radio to the first reports about the World Trade Center disaster in New York, a jetliner, apparently at full throttle and not more than a couple of hundred yards above the ground, screamed overhead. ... Seconds before the Pentagon came into view a huge black cloud of smoke rose above the road ahead. I came around the bend and there was the Pentagon billowing smoke, flames and debris, blackened on one side and with a gaping hole where the airplane had hit it."
- "Eyewitness at the Pentagon." Human Events, 17 Sep 2001

"Frank Probst, an information management specialist for the Pentagon Renovation Program, left his office trailer near the Pentagon's south parking lot at 9:36 a.m. Sept. 11. Walking north beside Route 27, he suddenly saw a commercial airliner crest the hilltop Navy Annex. American Airlines Flight 77 reached him so fast and flew so low that Probst dropped to the ground, fearing he'd lose his head to its right engine."
- "A Defiant Recovery." The Retired Officer Magazine, January 2002

"USAToday.com Editor Joel Sucherman saw it all: an American Airlines jetliner fly left to right across his field of vision as he commuted to work Tuesday morning. It was highly unusual. The large plane was 20 feet off the ground and a mere 50 to 75 yards from his windshield. Two seconds later and before he could see if the landing gear was down or any of the horror-struck faces inside, the plane slammed into the west wall of the Pentagon 100 yards away. 'My first thought was he's not going to make it across the river to [Reagan] National Airport. But whoever was flying the plane made no attempt to change direction,' Sucherman said. 'It was coming in at a high rate of speed, but not at a steep angle-almost like a heat-seeking missile was locked onto its target and staying dead on course.'"
- "Journalist Witnesses Pentagon Crash." eWeek.com, 13 Sep 2001

"'I mean it was like a cruise missile with wings, went right there and slammed into the Pentagon,' eyewitness Mike Walter said of the plane that hit the military complex. 'Huge explosion, great ball of fire, smoke started billowing out, and then it was just chaos on the highway as people either tried to move around the traffic and go down either forward or backwards,' he said."
- "Witnesses and Leaders on Terrorist Attacks." CNN, 11 Sep 2001

"'(The plane) was flying fast and low and the Pentagon was the obvious target,' said Fred Gaskins, who was driving to his job as a national editor at USA Today near the Pentagon when the plane passed about 150 feet overhead. 'It was flying very smoothly and calmly, without any hint that anything was wrong.'"
- "Bush Vows Retaliation for 'Evil Acts'." USA Today, 11 Sep 2001

"Aydan Kizildrgli, an English language student who is a native of Turkey, saw the jetliner bank slightly then strike a western wall of the huge five-sided building that is the headquarters of the nation's military. 'There was a big boom,' he said. 'Everybody was in shock. I turned around to the car behind me and yelled "Did you see that?" Nobody could believe it.'"
- "Bush Vows Retaliation for 'Evil Acts'." USA Today, 11 Sep 2001

"'I saw the tail of a large airliner. ... It plowed right into the Pentagon," said an Associated Press Radio reporter who witnessed the crash. 'There is billowing black smoke.'"
- "America's Morning of Terror." ChannelOne.com, 2001

"Omar Campo, a Salvadorean, was cutting the grass on the other side of the road when the plane flew over his head. 'It was a passenger plane. I think an American Airways plane,' Mr Campo said. 'I was cutting the grass and it came in screaming over my head. I felt the impact. The whole ground shook and the whole area was full of fire. I could never imagine I would see anything like that here.'"
- "Pentagon Eyewitness Accounts." The Guardian, 12 Sep 2001

"Afework Hagos, a computer programmer, was on his way to work but stuck in a traffic jam near the Pentagon when the plane flew over. 'There was a huge screaming noise and I got out of the car as the plane came over. Everybody was running away in different directions. It was tilting its wings up and down like it was trying to balance. It hit some lampposts on the way in.'"
- "Pentagon Eyewitness Accounts." The Guardian, 12 Sep 2001

"A pilot who saw the impact, Tim Timmerman, said it had been an American Airways 757. "'It added power on its way in,' he said. 'The nose hit, and the wings came forward and it went up in a fireball.'"
- "Pentagon Eyewitness Accounts." The Guardian, 12 Sep 2001

"Steve Eiden, a truck driver, had picked up his cargo that Tuesday morning in Williamsburg, Va., and was en route to New York City and witnessed the aftermath. ... He took the Highway 95 loop in the area of the Pentagon and thought it odd to see a plane in restricted airspace, thinking to himself it was odd that it was flying so low. 'You could almost see the people in the windows,' he said as he watched the plane disappear behind a line of trees, followed by a tall plume of black smoke. Then he saw the Pentagon on fire, and an announcement came over the radio that the Pentagon had been hit."
- "Sept. 11, the Day America Changed." The Baxter Bulletin, 2001

"Traffic is normally slow right around the Pentagon as the road winds and we line up to cross the 14th Street bridge heading into the District of Columbia. I don't know what made me look up, but I did and I saw a very low-flying American Airlines plane that seemed to be accelerating. My first thought was just 'No, no, no, no,' because it was obvious the plane was not heading to nearby Reagan National Airport. It was going to crash."
- "September 11 Remembered." University Week, 4 Oct 2001

"Father Stephen McGraw was driving to a graveside service at Arlington National Cemetery the morning of Sept. 11, when he mistakenly took the Pentagon exit onto Washington Boulevard, putting him in a position to witness American Airlines Flight 77 crash into the Pentagon. 'I was in the left hand lane with my windows closed. I did not hear anything at all until the plane was just right above our cars.' McGraw estimates that the plane passed about 20 feet over his car, as he waited in the left hand lane of the road, on the side closest to the Pentagon. 'The plane clipped the top of a light pole just before it got to us, injuring a taxi driver, whose taxi was just a few feet away from my car. I saw it crash into the building,' he said. 'My only memories really were that it looked like a plane coming in for a landing. I mean in the sense that it was controlled and sort of straight. That was my impression,' he said. 'There was an explosion and a loud noise and I felt the impact. I remember seeing a fireball come out of two windows (of the Pentagon). I saw an explosion of fire billowing through those two windows.'"
- "Pentagon Crash Eyewitness Comforted Victims." MDW News Service, 28 Sep 2001

"'I glanced up just at the point where the plane was going into the building,' said Carla Thompson, who works in an Arlington, Va., office building about 1,000 yards from the crash. 'I saw an indentation in the building and then it was just blown-up up-red, everything red,' she said. 'Everybody was just starting to go crazy. I was petrified.'"
- "Terrorists Attack New York, Pentagon." Los Angeles Times, 12 Sep 2001

"I witnessed the jet hit the Pentagon on September 11. From my office on the 19th floor of the USA TODAY building in Arlington, Va., I have a view of Arlington Cemetery, Crystal City, the Pentagon, National Airport and the Potomac River. ... Shortly after watching the second tragedy, I heard jet engines pass our building, which, being so close to the airport is very common. But I thought the airport was closed. I figured it was a plane coming in for landing. A few moments later, as I was looking down at my desk, the plane caught my eye. It didn't register at first. I thought to myself that I couldn't believe the pilot was flying so low. Then it dawned on me what was about to happen. I watched in horror as the plane flew at treetop level, banked slightly to the left, drug it's wing along the ground and slammed into the west wall of the Pentagon exploding into a giant orange fireball. Then black smoke. Then white smoke."
- Steve Anderson, Director of Communications, USA Today

"Henry Ticknor, intern minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virginia, was driving to church that Tuesday morning when American Airlines Flight 77 came in fast and low over his car and struck the Pentagon. 'There was a puff of white smoke and then a huge billowing black cloud,' he said."
- "Hell on Earth." UU World, Jan/Feb 2002

"Northern Virginia resident John O'Keefe was one of the commuters who witnessed the attack on the Pentagon. 'I was going up 395, up Washington Blvd., listening to the the news, to WTOP, and from my left side-I don't know whether I saw or heard it first- I saw a silver plane I immediately recognized it as an American Airlines jet,' said the 25-year-old O'Keefe, managing editor of Influence, an American Lawyer Media publication about lobbying. 'It came swooping in over the highway, over my left shoulder, straight across where my car was heading. I'd just heard them saying on the radio that National Airport was closing, and I thought, "That's not going to make it to National Airport." And then I realized where I was, and that it was going to hit the Pentagon. There was a burst of orange flame that shot out that I could see through the highway overpass. Then it was just black. Just black, thick smoke.'"
- "Terrorist 'Situation'." American Lawyer Media, 11 Sep 2001

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