People all across Virginia stopped today to recall the events of September 11th, 2001. But nowhere were the memories as raw as Arlington, where one of the hijacked planes slammed into the Pentagon.
People often talk about New York and Washington being hit on 9/11. But Washington wasn’t hit. Arlington Virginia was where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, and it was Arlington County fire and EMS who were the first responders. Arlington County manager Mark Schwartz.
“Their challenge was really to put into place and realize in real time an incident command approach, which was new for us, which was to have one commander for all the police, fire and first responders.”
Fire Department Captain David Santini says first responders had already been training for some kind of incident, although not necessarily the one they ended up facing that day.
“Our fire chief at the time had really started to prepare the department for some kind of terrorist attack. But, of course, planes flying into buildings was not the usual way that we figured would happen. It would probably be perhaps a bombing or some kind of chemical or biological incident.”
The Arlington Fire Department led the rescue and recovery operations at the Pentagon for more than a week, a time that people here in Arlington still remember with a sense of dread and anxiety.