5. Eyewitness Reports of American Airlines Flight 77
Clipping Objects On Way to Crash
Father Stephen McGraw . . . mistakenly took the Pentagon exit onto Washington Boulevard, putting him in a position to witness American Airlines Flight 77 crash into the Pentagon.
"The traffic was very slow moving . . . 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 . . . it looked like a plane coming in for a landing. I mean in the sense that it was controlled and sort of straight. . . .
"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," by Paul Haring, Pentagram / dcmilitary.com, 9/28/01
Military District of Washinton News Service, 9/28/01
Former ammunition plant official . . . Col. Bruce Elliott . . . watched . . . as a hijacked 757 airliner crashed into the nerve center of the U.S. military command.
Elliott, . . . said he had just left the Pentagon and was about to board a shuttle van in a south parking lot when he saw the plane approach and slam into the west side of the structure.
"I looked to my left and saw the plane coming in. . . .
"It was like a kamikaze pilot." . . .
He said the craft clipped a utility pole guide wire, which may have slowed it down a bit before it crashed into the building and burst into flames. . . .
Elliott said the rubble was still smoldering Wednesday morning.
"Attack on America - Commander saw Pentagon crash," by Dennis J. Carroll, The Hawk Eye, 9/13-14/01
Evey, Walker Lee
EVEY: Actually, there's considerable evidence of the aircraft outside the E ring. It's just not very visible. When you get up close -- actually, one of my people happened to be walking on this sidewalk and was right about here as the aircraft approached. It came in. It clipped a couple of light poles on the way in. He happened to hear this terrible noise behind him, looked back, and he actually -- he's a Vietnam veteran -- jumped prone onto the ground so the aircraft would not actually -- he thinks it (would have) hit him; it was that low.
On its way in, the wing clipped. Our guess is an engine clipped a generator. We had an emergency temporary generator to provide life-safety emergency electrical power, should the power go off in the building. The wing actually clipped that generator, and portions of it broke off. There are other parts of the plane that are scattered about outside the building. None of those parts are very large, however. You don't see big pieces of the airplane sitting there extending up into the air. But there are many small pieces. And the few larger pieces there look like they are veins out of the aircraft engine. They're circular.
"September 11, 2001: Federal Response," Lee Evey, Pentagon Renovation Manager, Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, Deputy Asst. Sec. of Def. for Public Affairs, Terry Mitchell, chief, Audiovisual Division, Office of ASD PA, The Pentagon, The Patriot Resource - History: September 11, 2001, 9/15/01
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."
"`Everyone was screaming, crying, running. It's like a war zone'," by Julian Borger, Duncan Campbell, Charlie Porter and Stuart Millar, The Guardian, 9/12/01
My office is 8 miles from the site. The recovery teams working 18 hour shifts are just now getting to the body of the aircraft that went right through the outer ring at full power according to eyewitnesses.. Being a former transport type (60's era) I cannot understand how that plane hit where it did giving the direction the aircraft was taking at the time.
As most know, the Pentagon lies at the bottom of two hills from the west with the east side being next to the river at 14th street bridge. One hill is at the Navy Annex and the other is Arlington Cemetery. The plane came up I-395 also known as Shirley Hwy. . . . The plane had been seen making a lazy pattern in the no fly zone over the White House and US Cap. Why the plane did not hit incoming traffic coming down the river from the north to Reagan Nat'l. is beyond me. Strangely, no one at the Reagan Tower noticed the aircraft. Andrews AFB radar should have also picked up the aircraft I would think. Nevertheless, the aircarft went southwest near Springfield and then veered left over Arlington and then put the nose down coming over Ft Myer picking off trees and light poles near the helicopter pad next to building. It was as if he leveled out at the last minute and put it square into the building. The wings came off as if it went through an arch way leaving a hole in the side of the building it seems a little larger than the wide body of the aircraft. The entry point was so clean that the roof . . . fell in on the wreckage. They are just now getting to the passengers today. The nosewheel I understand is in the grass near the second ring. Right now it is estimated that it will take two years to repair the damage. Ironcally, the area had just been remodeled with most of the area was still blocked off and some offices were empty.
"the Pentagon," by tom hovis (thovis[at]mindspring[dot]com), 9/14/01
[Terry Morin, a former USMC aviator, Program Manager for SPARTA, Inc was working as a contractor at the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) offices at the old Navy Annex.]
I had just reached the elevator in the 5th Wing of BMDO/Federal Office Building (FOB) #2 -- call it approximately 9:36 AM. . . . Approximately 10 steps out from between Wings 4 and 5, I was making a gentle right turn towards the security check-in building just above Wing 4 when I became aware of something unusual. . . . I started to hear an increasingly loud rumbling behind me and to my left. As I turned to my left, I immediately realized the noise was bouncing off the 4-story structure that was Wing 5. One to two seconds later the airliner came into my field of view. By that time the noise was absolutely deafening. . . . The aircraft was essentially right over the top of me and the outer portion of the FOB (flight path parallel the outer edge of the FOB). Everything was shaking and vibrating, including the ground. I estimate that the aircraft was no more than 100 feet above me (30 to 50 feet above the FOB) in a slight nose down attitude. The plane had a silver body with red and blue stripes down the fuselage. I believed at the time that it belonged to American Airlines, but I couldn't be sure. It looked like a 737 and I so reported to authorities.
Within seconds the plane cleared the 8th Wing of BMDO and was heading directly towards the Pentagon. Engines were at a steady high-pitched whine, indicating to me that the throttles were steady and full. I estimated the aircraft speed at between 350 and 400 knots. The flight path appeared to be deliberate, smooth, and controlled. As the aircraft approached the Pentagon, I saw a minor flash (later found out that the aircraft had sheared off a portion of a highway light pole down on Hwy 110). As the aircraft flew ever lower I started to lose sight of the actual airframe as a row of trees to the Northeast of the FOB blocked my view. I could now only see the tail of the aircraft. I believe I saw the tail dip slightly to the right indicating a minor turn in that direction.
Coping with the 9.11.01 Aftermath, Accounts of Survivors - "Eyewitness Account of Pentagon Attack," By: Terry Morin, Coping.org, 9/01
At 9:35 a.m., I pulled alongside the Pentagon. With traffic at a standstill, my eyes wandered around the road, looking for the cause of the traffic jam. Then I looked up to my left and saw an American Airlines jet flying right at me. The jet roared over my head, clearing my car by about 25 feet. The tail of the plane clipped the overhanging exit sign above me as it headed straight at the Pentagon.
"`Tomorrow always belongs to us'," by Vin Narayanan, USATODAY.com, 9/17/01
Owens, Mary Ann
Mary Ann Owens, a journalist with Gannett News Service . . . was driving along by the side of the Pentagon, on September 11, 2001, when a hijacked jet screamed overhead and ploughed into it. . . .
Looking up didn't tell me what type of plane it was because it was so close I could only see the bottom. Realising the Pentagon was its target, I didn't think the careering, full-throttled craft would get that far. Its downward angle was too sharp, its elevation of maybe 50 feet, too low. Street lights toppled as the plane barely cleared the Interstate 395 overpass. . . .
Gripping the steering wheel of my vibrating car, I involuntarily ducked as the wobbling plane thundered over my head. Once it passed, I raised slightly and grimaced as the left wing dipped and scraped the helicopter area just before the nose crashed into the southwest wall of the Pentagon.
"The day thought I was going to die", by Mary Ann Owens, This is Local London, 9/11/02
Frank Probst . . . [a] Pentagon renovation worker and retired Army officer . . . was inspecting newly installed telecommunications wiring inside the five-story, 6.5-million-square-foot building.
. . . at about 9:35 a.m., he saw the airliner in the cloudless September sky.
American Airlines Flight 77 approached from the west, coming in low over the nearby five-story Navy Annex on a hill overlooking the Pentagon.
"He has lights off, wheels up, nose down," Probst recalled. The plane seemed to be accelerating directly toward him. He froze.
He dove to his right. He recalls the engine passing on one side of him, about six feet away.
The plane's right wing went through a generator trailer "like butter," Probst said. The starboard engine hit a low cement wall and blew apart.
He still can't remember the sound of the explosion . . .
"It was pretty horrible," he said of the noiseless images he carries inside him, of the jet vanishing in a cloud of smoke and dust, and bits of metal and concrete drifting down like confetti.
On either side of him, three streetlights had been sheared in half by the airliner's wings at 12 to 15 feet above the ground. An engine had clipped the antenna off a Jeep Grand Cherokee stalled in traffic not far away.
"Fortress Reborn," by Vince Crawley, Military.com, 9/11/02
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