Mickey Jordan is a photographer whoworks for the Pentagon. By a stroke of luck, she narrowly missed beingin the building on September 11, 2001, but she remembers everythingabout the day.
Where were you when you learned of the attacks?
Iwas a mile away at the Army/Navy Country Club photographing a meeting ofreserve general officers for the armed services. I found out severalmonths later that the meeting was actually supposed to have been heldwhere the plane struck but was changed because the Pentagon was in theprocess of being renovated.
How did you find out about the attacks?
In themiddle of a briefing, an Army colonel came rushing into the meeting andsaid, "They just crashed an airplane into the Pentagon." Thatended the meeting pretty fast.
What was the reaction?
A three-star Air Forcegeneral and a two-star general walked a mile to the Pentagon and gotinto the building to coordinate their people, but most of us stayed atthe club since we basically couldn't go anywhere. The traffic was in agridlock. The people at the club rolled a big TV into the conferenceroom and we watched for updates.
What kind of disorder did the attacks spur?
Icouldn't get a dial-tone or a signal on my cell phone. There were simplytoo many people calling and tying up the lines. It was two hours beforeI could even call my husband to tell him I was safe. Our friends werecalling him to ask how I was, and he didn't know.
How much of the Pentagon was gone?
The photostudio, where I work, had moved into the renovated new area of thebuilding four months before. The plane hit our wedge, penetrating the E,D and C rings of our area. It stopped at the driveway between the B andC rings; my office was in ring A.
How did those who were in the building react?
Sincethe plane hadn't reached our ring of the building, the people I workwith got out safely. They told me later, however, that it was thebiggest bang they ever heard.
How did you handle yourself that day?
I tried toget home at noon, but traffic wasn't moving, so I drove back to thecountry club. I passed security and remained there for two more hours.At that point, traffic had eased up enough for me to return home viaback roads.
I got home safely and watched everything on TV therest of the week.
What did the Pentagon look like after the attack?
At the site, you would see a totally destroyed area, and right next toit, there would be a furnished office with pictures still hanging on thewall.
What did your office look like?
The Pentagon's roofis made of wood with slate covering it, so once the fire reached thewood, it was difficult to extinguish. It burned through the A ring'sroof on the fifth floor, so the water dripped through to the first floorwhere my office is, causing water damage. The doors to the offices werelocked, which is usual for evacuation, so the carpet and walls were wet.Mold was growing everywhere in our offices. Carpets and furniture allneeded replacing, and everything had to be rewired.
What was work like immediately after the attacks?
Two weeks after the attack, wearing protective suits with masks andgloves, we tried to recover what we could of our 45 years ofphotographed Air Force history. When we left during those weeks, we hadto go through a cleaning wash. We kept working, relocating to a graphicsshop involved with our department. It was six months before we couldreturn to work in our offices.
What was the rescue effort like?
Volunteers camefrom all over the country to help. A tent city was erected in the southparking lot to support the workers. A church group from Florida came tohelp feed everyone. It was at least two weeks before they salvaged thebodies and longer before they finished cleaning up the area.
How did you feel when you first went back to the Pentagon?
It was strange to return to the building that first time. You'dsee armed guards everywhere. We had a list of the dead, and one womanwho died was a good friend of the photography office. She had moved onlyshortly before the attacks.
What were the emotions of the Pentagon employees?
When you saw people for the first time after the crash, you'd hug them,rejoicing simply because you were both still alive. We weren't sure forawhile who had survived.
What was the rebuilding of the Pentagon like?
Everyone did whatever it took; we were all in it together. On the planethat went down in Pennsylvania, the last words heard before thepassengers made their move were "Let's roll." This became theunofficial motto for rebuilding the Pentagon. There were even shirtsmade with it. The workers managed to rebuild the burned-out part andwedge two in just one year. It took two years to renovate wedge one.
What were the attitudes of the workers?
I knew theman who was running the project, and he told me that he had a hard timegetting people to take time off, even Christmas. They were so motivatedand wanted to finish.
How did the nation respond to the Pentagon's loss?
School kids sent enormous flags, and they're still getting mementos toexpress gratitude for the Pentagon's work and grievances for the tragedythat are still displayed around the Pentagon.
How do you think this will affect future generations?
I think history will need to play itself out on that. You neverrecognize the most important parts of history until 15 or 20 yearsafter, but it will never be forgotten. Nobody who worked there ever goespast it without seeing it like it was that day.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.