Perspective

9/11: Indelible Memories, Unforgettable Experiences

September 10, 2020

LMI Staff

Many of us remember clearly where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. First responders put their lives on the line and many people lost loved ones. Shock and uncertainty poured over this country, unsettling us and becoming indelibly ingrained in our memories.

LMI employees shared their experiences from that day. Each story offers a different per spective and further proves that, no matter where you were, this event was unforgettable. This blog post includes such details as where they were, how it affected them, and who they admire for handling the situation. Please note that these heartfelt accounts may induce strong emotions for some readers.

Tough Decisions Carry Appreciation

Michael Furey | Sr. Consultant, Business Development

When 9/11 occurred, I was the northern Virginia district manager for the United States Postal Service (USPS). We had thousands of letter carriers preparing to hit the streets to deliver the mail, and thousands of others had already left. The Pentagon, housed in our district, had been hit and nobody knew what might come next. Our sister district in DC pulled its carriers off the streets. Our leadership team gathered, discussed the situation, and decided to deliver all mail that day. After all, USPS delivers through blizzards, derechos, hurricanes, etc. And USPS employs many veterans, who care deeply about their responsibilities. We worried about whether we had made the right decision, not knowing whether another attack would occur, endangering our employees. At mid-afternoon, my admin. told me to talk with a lady who had called.

“I’m an 84-year-old senior citizen living by myself. I’ve been watching the news all day and worrying that the world was coming to an end,” she said. “My letter carrier just delivered my mail. When I saw him, I realized things were going to be okay. He gave me a sense of comfort that we will get through this. I just wanted to call and say thank you to the USPS.”

I knew we had made the right decision. USPS delivers, always.

___________

'My letter carrier just delivered my mail. When I saw him, I realized things were going to be okay. He gave me a sense of comfort that we will get through this.'

Keeping Watch from the Naval Air Station

Dude Underwood | Principal, Scheduling

As I drove to work the morning of 9/11, the radio reported that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. While approaching Naval Air Station North Island, I heard that a second plane had hit the other tower. The public works staff gathered in the conference room to see the latest news from a small television on a rolling cart usually used for training. The base was locked down as we braced for more attacks.

My shipboard watchstanding experience came in handy as I created a watch-bill for facility experts to remain constantly available. I gave myself the first mid-watch—it took me over 2 hours to get back on the base at midnight. Professionals found ways to continue the most important activities and supplied continual advice to inform rapid decisions at all echelons. Leading and serving with the utmost concern were the hallmarks of those historic days.

___________

Leading and serving with the utmost concern were the hallmarks of those historic days.

Outside the Pentagon

Jack Oliva | Consultant, Project Management

On the way to a client meeting, I ended up stopped in traffic on the highway next to the Pentagon. I had inched along, gotten past the helipad, and was about in line with the west end of the building when I saw something white in my driver-side mirror. It caught my eye because it was moving perpendicular to the highway. I instinctively looked, then heard the explosion. I turned back to see a fireball near the helipad. I thought a helicopter had crashed, but then a second fireball, larger than the building, erupted.

A moment later, we were sprayed by shrapnel from the blast. My car took a piece through the fender. The car next to mine had two pieces go through the back window. I knew that was not a helicopter but still did not understand what it was. Local radio started getting calls from Crystal City, which had a better view, saying it was a plane. That is when I remembered what I saw in the side mirror.

People escaping the building started to flood the roadway. We were stuck there for a long time. Cell service was out, so it was hours before I could call my wife. Traffic moved slowly as we passed cars that had been damaged and were pulled to the side of the road. There was a large metal assembly in the middle of the road that looked like it came from a military helicopter. When I finally got out of traffic and made it to Ballston, I heard that the World Trade Center towers had collapsed.

After 22 years of active duty, the first time I got shot at was as a consultant.

___________

I turned back to see a fireball near the helipad. I thought a helicopter had crashed, but then a second fireball, larger than the building, erupted.

Humbled to Serve

Pat Tamburrino | Vice President, Health and Civilian Market

Sitting in my office in Building 201 of the Washington Navy Yard, across the Potomac toward the Pentagon, I saw the smoke and could not imagine what had happened. Moments later, we received word of the attack and the Navy Yard went into lockdown. I was responsible for accounting for the over 5,000 staff members assigned to Naval Sea Systems Command at the yard. People were panicked and cell phone service was nonexistent. I spent the day alternating between periods of numbness and consoling employees who were profoundly upset.

Later that day, I went to the Pentagon to begin the recovery of key business systems. I was struck by the presence of Marines in full combat gear on M Street. When I left very early on the morning of September 12, the dark smoke rising from the Pentagon was visible even against the black night sky.

I lost close friends that day. Many years later, I was asked to participate in efforts which resulted in the construction of the 9/11 tomb and memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. I remember many conversations in the years following the attack with families who had suffered a loss that day and still had lingering questions. I was one of the DoD executives responsible for staying in touch with the families and attending to their needs. I was, and continue to be, humbled by the opportunity to honor those who lost their lives in the Pentagon attack.

___________

When I left very early on the morning of September 12, the dark smoke rising from the Pentagon was visible even against the black night sky.

An Anxious Metro Ride

Oscar Oña | Principal, Capture

On 9/11, I was a civil servant at Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS, now called the Fiscal Service). The building where I worked overlooks the tidal basin (next to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Bureau of Engraving and Printing) and has a clear view of the Pentagon. That morning, I was at my desk when I heard the breaking news from New York City. I felt some uncertainty until a second plane was confirmed to have hit the Twin Towers. The internet had slowed from folks tracking the news online, so I tuned in via the radio. Shortly thereafter, I felt the building shake briefly, looked out the window, and saw a thick plume of black smoke coming from the Pentagon. It probably took 10–20 minutes for the news to break on the radio, but I knew we were being attacked in DC as well. I rushed to tell my acting director that the Pentagon was on fire, only to have my concerns dismissed as a non-event because the Pentagon had events and ceremonies all the time.

I didn’t stick around for an official order. Once the news broke about the Pentagon attack and there were reports of a fourth plane headed to DC, I wanted to get out of downtown immediately. The panic and uncertainty of people on the street as I walked to the Smithsonian Metro station was like a movie—they all seemed to be scrambling in circles. People tried unsuccessfully to make mobile phone calls as all the lines were jammed. The Metro ride home was quiet and anxious as I hoped it was not a target, too. As the Metro left the Union Station tunnels and headed to Silver Spring, someone pointed to where the Washington Monument would typically be and declared it was not there. Obviously, he was wrong, but, for that brief moment, the whole train car of riders gasped in fear. Once I got home, I was glued to the TV, watching the news but already knowing our lives were about to change radically.

A year later, I had started an affinity group at FMS for Hispanic heritage, and we marked the occasion by inviting Arlington Fire Department first responders who had harrowing stories of their response to the Pentagon that fateful morning in 2001. That event served as a remarkable reminder of the sacrifices our first responders then, and their continued selflessness, keeping us safe and rescuing us in times of need.

___________

I felt the building shake briefly, looked out the window, and saw a thick plume of black smoke coming from the Pentagon. It probably took 10–20 minutes for the news to break on the radio, but I knew we were being attacked in DC as well.

A Worrying Wake Up Call

Marlis Cook | Retired USAF | Sr. Consultant, Software Development

It was about 5:00 a.m. when the phone rang. My husband woke me up and told me to turn on the TV. Thinking he was nuts (I’m not wrong about that), and more than irritated that he woke me up from a sound sleep to look for the remote, I nonetheless complied. Every channel was showing a plane crashing into the Twin Towers. This is the weirdest movie ever and why is it on ALL the channels? After turning the sound up, we saw the second plane hit.

I had showered and changed into my uniform by the time the phone rang again, this time with a call from my boss, Louise. I was working at the 735 AMS at Hickam Air Force Base (now Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam) in Hawaii as a Global Air Transportation System database administrator. Louise said the base was closed to traffic. Since I was the sole member of our five-person team who lived on base, I would be the only one at work until the gates reopened.

For almost 2 weeks, I was alone in my office. If you’ve ever lived close to or on a military base, you know air traffic is constant. There were no flights; the air was closed for business. There was no Department of Homeland Security and no Transportation Security Administration. This was the beginning of our lives being forever changed.

___________

Since I was the sole member of our five-person team who lived on base, I would be the only one at work until the gates reopened. For almost 2 weeks, I was alone in my office.

First Responders to the Pentagon

Maureen Merkl | Sr. Consultant, Healthcare Advisory

LMI's Maureen Merkl worked at the hospital nearest the Pentagon on 9/11. She recalls her experience and pays tribute to the first responders who entered harm's way 19 years ago and continue to risk in service to their communities.

___________

Members of the community came to the hospital to help. Some offered to give blood; others wanted to offer hope and comfort to burn victims. Folks wanted to help in any way they could.

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