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Survivors of the September 11th Pentagon attack reflect 20 years later

A first responder, a survivor and a reporter spoke with KAGS' Jordan Adams about that day

BRYAN, Texas —
On September 11th, 2001, Lisa Daniels was getting ready for her first day back at work after taking two years off after the birth of her first child. Where she would be working was in the Pentagon as a reporter for United Press International, when her babysitter called off sick with the flu.

“At 8 o’clock, 8:30 that morning it felt like the worst thing that could happen, I’m missing my first day at work,” Daniels said.

Around that same time American Airlines flight 77, en route to Los Angeles took off from Ronald Reagan airport just minutes away from the Department of Defense headquarters.

Six crew members, 53 passengers and five hijackers were on board that flight.

Jefferey Cohen is a former colonel in the air force and was in the pentagon when flight 77 crashed into the building.

“I had known the planes had hit the world trade center, and I was still trying to get my head wrapped around that. And the idea that it was a terrorist attack really hadn't sunk in on me yet,” Chen said. “Also because I was a flyer in the air force, I also knew no pilot would ever fly into a building that big. It wasn’t an accident, I knew it wasn’t an accident.” 

Cohen felt the building shake and the bang from the western side. Immediately people started exiting the building.

"I came out of the building in corridor 3 and I looked out over my right shoulder and saw all the smoke pouring out of the building.  And someone said to me ‘a jet just flew into the building’," Cohen said.

Soon after the crash, first responders from across the area were there on the scene battling the blaze and rescuing civilians.

 Geoff Mayer, an Arlington county firefighter for 29 years, was one of those first responders. 

“Ft. Meyer fire department actually had a station there. Where they had a crash truck, positioned there specifically on stand by for helicopter landings and takeoffs,” Mayer said. “One of the first things I noticed was that the fire truck sitting out there was completely burned up.”

Mayer recalls having to stop what they were doing multiple times because no one knew if the attacks were over.

“We kept hearing reports that there might be another plane coming. There were two or three times where they actually pulled us back away from the fire fighting operation because we thought another plane was coming,” Mayer said.

The initial crews were on the scene for about 12 hours before a shift schedule was put in place and It would take several days to put the fire out.

“It never goes away, it always kinda haunts you,” Cohen said. “Before the pentagon was a big office building for me. Now when you go by it’s just a bad memory.” 

The crash and fire took 59 lives on the plane and 125 on the ground.