9/11 BBC TV news broadcast showing a passenger jet approaching Pentagon:
Animation showing the plane's approach and impact into the Pentagon:
A comparison of the fuel explosions of the WTC 2 hit (image reversed) and the Pentagon hit:
UPDATE: Images from a second camera at the Pentagon, pried loose in a FOIA lawsuit, shows the plane approaching the Pentagon
An example showing what happened to the plane when it hit the newly reinforced section of the Pentagon:
Photo showing the Pentagon shortly after the impact:
Note the fires where the engines hit.
|A clip recording the conversation between the TYSON sector ATC
C-130 pilot who saw Flight 77 shortly before it hit the
Pentagon. (The original recording isn't clearly time coded, so
please regard these times as approximate only.)
9:36:41 - ATC: GOFER zero 6, traffic is 11 o'clock
and five miles northbound fast moving, type and altitude unknown.
9:38:59 - ATC: GOFER eight [sic] six, GOFER zero
six, thank you.
|Below are excerpts from Pentagon eyewitness accounts. The
highlighted accounts include a link to a page which
contains an unsolicited phone call from Jeffrey Hill to the
eyewitness in which he asks what they saw on 9/11. These people do not talk
about hypotheticals based on the size of the hole in the Pentagon or
the lack of aircraft debris, they relate what they saw on 9/11.
Listen to what they have to say, and take note of how racked off some of them are about cooked up hypothetical scenarios.
Shortly after watching the second tragedy, I heard jet engines pass our building, which, being so close to the airport is very common. But I thought the airport was closed. I figured it was a plane coming in for landing. A few moments later, as I was looking down at my desk, the plane caught my eye. It didn't register at first. I thought to myself that I couldn't believe the pilot was flying so low. Then it dawned on me what was about to happen. I watched in horror as the plane flew at treetop level, banked slightly to the left, drug it's wing along the ground and slammed into the west wall of the Pentagon exploding into a giant orange fireball. Then black smoke. Then white smoke.
Anlauf was watching TV coverage of the Trade Center burning shortly before 9:30 a.m. when she decided to return to her 14th-floor room from another part of the hotel. Once in her room, she heard a "loud roar" and looked out the window to see what was going on. "Suddenly I saw this plane right outside my window," Anlauf said during a telephone interview from her hotel room this morning. "You felt like you could touch it; it was that close. It was just incredible. "Then it shot straight across from where we are and flew right into the Pentagon. It was just this huge fireball that crashed into the wall (of the Pentagon). When it hit, the whole hotel shook."
Motor 11: There is visible smoke coming from that
area...high, visible smoke.
Earlier Tuesday, Battle, an office worker at the Pentagon, was standing outside the building and just about to enter when the aircraft struck. "It was coming down head first," he said. "And when the impact hit, the cars and everything were just shaking."
I had just passed the closest place the Pentagon is to the exit on 395 . . . when all of a sudden I heard the roar of a jet engine. I looked at the woman sitting in the car next to me. She had this startled look on her face. We were all thinking the same thing. We looked out the front of our windows to try to see the plane, and it wasn’t until a few seconds later that we realized the jet was coming up behind us on that major highway. And it veered to the right into the Pentagon. The blast literally rocked all of our cars. It was an incredible moment.
Sergeant Maurice L. Bease had worked around Marine aviation long enough to know what a fly-by was, and it sounded like one as he stood outside his office near the Pentagon on Sept. 11. Turning around expecting to see a fighter jet fly over, he saw only a split-second glimpse of a white commercial airliner streaking low toward the building, and him! He did not even have time to duck before it plowed into the side of the Pentagon around the corner and about 200 yards from where he stood. Immediately, a ball of flame shot up the side of the building, followed by smoke, lots of it.
Paul Begala, a Democratic consultant, said he witnessed an explosion near the Pentagon. "It was a huge fireball, a huge, orange fireball," he said in an interview on his mobile phone.
Bell, who had been less than 100 feet from the initial impact of the plane, was nearly struck by one of the planeīs wings as it sped by him. In shock, he got into his truck, which had been parked in the trailer compound, and sped away. He wandered around Arlington in his truck and tried to make wireless phone calls. He ended up back at Singletonīs headquarters in Gaithersburg two hours later, according to President Singleton, not remembering much. The full impact of the closeness of the crash wasnīt realized until coworkers noticed damage to Bellīs work vehicle. He had plastic and rivets from an airplane imbedded in its sheet metal, but Bell had no idea what had happened.
Susan Bergen was sitting in a hotel room near the Pentagon on Tuesday morning, glued to TV news coverage of the World Trade Center attack. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a plane outside the window of her 11th floor room. She turned just in time to see a big jetliner skim the treetops and slam into the side of the Pentagon, less than a half mile from her hotel room. It looked like the plane sped up just before hitting the building, she said.
LTC Brian Birdwell. He was just heading back down the hall to his office when the building exploded in front of him. ... Once they stabilized Brian, they transferred him to George Washington Hospital where...the best, cutting edge burn doctor in the U.S. The doctor told him that had he not gone to Georgetown first, he probably would not have survived because of the jet fuel in his lungs.
Engine 101 actually saw the jetliner plow into the northwest side of the Pentagon. The radio crackled, “Engine 101—emergency traffic, a plane has gone down into the Pentagon."
Sean Boger, Air Traffic Controller and Pentagon tower chief - "I just looked up and I saw the big nose and the wings of the aircraft coming right at us and I just watched it hit the building." "It exploded. I fell to the ground and covered my head. I could actually hear the metal going through the building."
I work in Washington DC area, and was on my way to work, in my car, sitting on a bridge, and saw the plane hit the Pentagon. I am in a complete state of shock.
The lawn was littered with twisted pieces of aluminum. He saw one chunk painted with the letter "A," another with a "C." It didn't occur to Braman what the letters signified until a man in the crowd stooped to pick up one of the smaller metal shards. He examined it for a moment, then announced: "This was a jet."
"I saw the plane at the Navy Annex area," he said. "I knew it was going to strike the building because it was very, very low -- at the height of the street lights. It knocked a couple down." The plane would have been seconds from impact -- the annex is only a few hundred yards from the Pentagon. He said he heard the plane "power-up" just before it struck the Pentagon. "
It was a passenger plane. I think an American Airways plane, Mr Campo said. "I was cutting the grass and it came in screaming over my head. I felt the impact. The whole ground shook and the whole area was full of fire."
As I was looking across the river towards the direction of the Pentagon, I noticed a large aircraft flying low towards the White House. This aircraft then made a sharp turn and flew towards the Pentagon and seconds later crashed into it.
I was standing on the platform high above the [Washington Reagan] airport awaiting a Metro subway train to my office in the heart of the district, on Constitution Avenue, admiring the lovely blue skies when I saw the plane hit and the fireball and explosion at the Pentagon.
''Out of my peripheral vision, I saw this plane coming in and it was low - and getting lower. ''If you couldn't touch it from standing on the highway, you could by standing on your car.'' ''I thought, 'This isn't really happening. That is a big plane.' Then I saw the faces of some of the passengers on board,'' Cissell said. ''I remember thinking, 'The World Trade Center was just the beginning, there's going to be more.' '' He remembers the helipad the plane flew over before smacking into the Pentagon was close enough to him that ''I could have thrown a baseball at it and hit it.''
The hijacked jetliner, traveling at 350 miles an hour, was only about 100 feet from the ground when it cruised over Arlington police officer Richard Cox's head, just a quarter mile from the Pentagon. "It was low enough for me to see the reflection of cars and trees and buildings on its underside as it passed by," he says. "It was low enough for my heart to stop."
He and two colleagues from Oracle software were stopped in a car near the Naval Annex, next to the Pentagon, when they saw the plane dive down and level off. "It was no more than 30 feet off the ground, and it was screaming. It was just screaming. It was nothing more than a guided missile at that point," Creed said. "I can still see the plane. I can still see it right now. It's just the most frightening thing in the world, going full speed, going full throttle, its wheels up," Creed recalls.
John Damoose, a Travis City, Mich. native who was in a meeting said "everybody got nervous. .‚.‚. We didn't know whether to stay inside or go outside. The thing with terrorist attacks is that you don't know what is the next thing that will happen." Damoose said the worst part was leaving the Pentagon and walking along Fort Meyer Drive, a bike trail, "you could see pieces of the plane."
"We had one guy who was standing, looking out the window and saw the plane when it was coming in. He was in front of one of the blast-resistant windows," says Kirlin President Wayne T. Day, who believes the window structure saved the man's life. According to Matt Hahr, Kirlin's senior project manager at the Pentagon, the employee "was thrown about 80 ft down the hall through the air. As he was traveling through the air, he says the ceiling was coming down from the concussion. He got thrown into a closet, the door slammed shut and the fireball went past him," recounts Hahr. "Jet fuel was on him and it irritated his eyes, but he didn't get burned."
"The only way you could tell that an aircraft was inside was that we saw pieces of the nose gear. The devastation was horrific. It was obvious that some of the victims we found had no time to react."
"Suddenly, an airplane roared into view, nearly shearing the roof off the trailer before slamming into the E ring. 'It sounded like a missile,' DiPaula recalls . . . Buried in debris and covered with airplane fuel, he was briefly listed by authorities as missing, but eventually crawled from the flaming debris and the shroud of black smoke unscathed.
"It was an American airlines airliner. I was looking out the window and saw it come right over the Navy annex at a slow angle. It looked to me to be on a zero-to-zero course. It seemed to be almost coming in in slow motion. I didn't actually feel it hit, but I saw it and then we all started running."
Every morning for years Bob Dubill drove past the Pentagon on his way to work at USA Today. He was passing the building the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when he saw a jetliner fly over the roadway. It filled his field of vision. The jet was 40-feet off the ground speeding toward the Pentagon. “The wheels were up and I knew that this plane was not heading for National Airport,” he said. “This plane was going to slam into the Pentagon. I steeled myself for the explosion.”The blast froze traffic on the highway.
I looked back and saw a jet airliner flying very low and very fast. ... The aircraft was so very low -- as an aircraft would be on its final approach to an airport. However, if you have watched any aircraft come in for a landing, even though the aircraft is descending, it is angled up slightly. This aircraft was angled downward. In addition, landing gear would also be visible on a aircraft so low and so near landing. This aircraft had its landing gear retracted. Finally, an aircraft on final approach is traveling rather slowly. This aircraft sped by very loudly an very quickly. All of this flashed in my mind as the aircraft passed from behind my left shoulder to in front of me. It was then that the other events of the morning crystallized in the realization that tragedy was about to occur. With all of these images spinning in my head, the only words that came out of my mouth were "Oh no!" With that, the airliner crashed into the Pentagon and exploded.
Steve Eiden, a truck driver, had picked up his cargo that Tuesday morning in Williamsburg, Va., and was en route to New York City and witnessed the aftermath. He took the Highway 95 loop in the area of the Pentagon and thought it odd to see a plane in restricted airspace, thinking to himself it was odd that it was flying so low. "You could almost see the people in the windows," he said as he watched the plane disappear behind a line of trees, followed by a tall plume of black smoke. Then he saw the Pentagon on fire, and an announcement came over the radio that the Pentagon had been hit.
Elliott, in a phone interview Wednesday, 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,” said Elliott, who watched it for several seconds. “It was banking and garnering speed. I felt it was headed for the Pentagon.” (…) “It was like a kamikaze pilot. I felt it was going to ram the Pentagon,” he said. 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.
The plane approached the Pentagon about six feet off the ground, clipping a light pole, a car antenna, a construction trailer and an emergency generator before slicing into the building, said Lee Evey, the manager of the Pentagon's ongoing billion-dollar renovation. The plane penetrated three of the Pentagon's five rings, but was probably stopped from going farther by hundreds of concrete columns. The plane peeled back as it entered, leaving pieces of the front of the plane near the outside of the building and pieces from the rear of the aircraft farther inside, Evey said.
As I stepped onto the highway next to the triage area, I knelt down to tie my shoe and all over the highway were small pieces of aircraft skin, none bigger than a half-dollar. Anyone familiar with aircraft has seen the greenish primer paint that covers many interior metal surfaces - that is what these shards were covered with.
"At that moment I heard a plane and then a loud cracking noise.... Right before the plane hit the building, you could see the silhouettes of people in the back two rows. You couldn't see if they were male or female, but you could tell there was a human being in there."
"Traffic was at a standstill, so I parked on the shoulder, not far from the scene and ran to the site. Next to me was a cab from D.C., its windshield smashed out by pieces of lampposts. There were pieces of the plane all over the highway, pieces of wing, I think."
Her commute to the airport took her south on Route 110, in front of the parking lots of the Pentagon. As she approached the parking lots, she saw a low-flying jetliner strike the top of nearby telephone poles. She then heard the plane power up and plunge into the Pentagon.
"'(The plane) was flying fast and low and the Pentagon was the obvious target,' said Fred Gaskins, who was driving to his job as a national editor at USA Today near the Pentagon when the plane passed about 150 feet overhead. 'It was flying very smoothly and calmly, without any hint that anything was wrong.'"
I didn't see the actual impact, but 395 curves around the Pentagon, and I saw that plane coming in and said to myself, 'That plane is too low; it's going to crash.'
According to Matt Hahr, Kirlin's senior project manager at the Pentagon, the employee "was thrown about 80 ft down the hall through the air. As he was traveling through the air, he says the ceiling was coming down from the concussion. He got thrown into a closet, the door slammed shut and the fireball went past him," recounts Hahr. "Jet fuel was on him and it irritated his eyes, but he didn't get burned."
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."
"I thought they'd put out an alert or something," Hammond said. "We saw the big American Airlines plane and started running."
Harrington was working on the installation of new furniture in Wedge One, when he was called out to the parking lot to talk about security with his customer moments before the crash. “About two minutes later one of my guys pointed to an American airlines airplane 20 feet high over Washington Blvd.,” Harrington said. “It seemed like it made impact just before the wedge. It was like a Hollywood movie or something.
All in all, I probably only had the aircraft in my field of view for approximately 3 seconds. The aircraft was at a sharp downward angle of attack, on a direct course for the Pentagon. It was "clean", in as much as, there were no flaps applied and no apparent landing gear deployed. He was slightly left wing down as he appeared in my line of sight, as if he'd just "jinked" to avoid something. As he crossed Route 110 he appeared to level his wings, making a slight right wing slow adjustment as he impacted low on the Westside of the building to the right of the helo, tower and fire vehicle around corridor 5.
Congressional staff attorney Fred Hey was driving by on Route 50 at that moment. "I can't believe it! This plane is going down into the Pentagon!" he shouted into his cellphone. On the other end of the line was his boss, Rep. Bob Ney (R) of Ohio. Representative Ney immediately phoned the news to House Sergeant-At-Arms Bill Livingood, who ordered an immediate evacuation of the Capitol itself.
Nicholas Holland, an engineer with AMEC Construction Management of Bethesda, Md., had spent the last two years working to reinforce the walls. Two summers ago, a blast wall of reinforced steel and concrete was installed right where the plane hit.
The plane came up I-395 also known as Shirley Hwy. (most likely used as a reference point.) 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 (shown in news photo) fell in on the wreckage.
From time spent on military aircraft as part of his job at the Pentagon, Will Jarvis ... knows what aviation fuel smells like. That smell was his only clue that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon, where he works as an operations research analyst for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Jarvis, who was around the corner from the disaster, tried but failed to see the plane when he left the building. "There was just nothing left. It was incinerated. We couldn't see a tail or a wing or anything," he says. "Just a big black hole in the building with smoke pouring out of it."
Fire Truck 101 from the Arlington County Fire Department was one of the first on the scene Tuesday morning. The truck was coming back from a training exercise, and one firefighter on board noticed a plane flying too low as they drove past the Pentagon. "Suddenly, we saw the huge explosion of the crash," said firefighter Andrea Kaiser.
Terrance Kean, 35, who lives in a 14-story building nearby, heard the loud jet engines and glanced out his window. "I saw this very, very large passenger jet," said the architect, who had been packing for a move. "It just plowed right into the side of the Pentagon. The nose penetrated into the portico. And then it sort of disappeared, and there was fire and smoke everywhere. . . . It was very sort of surreal."
On Sept. 11, I was standing in a break room of an office . . . in downtown D.C., when I looked out the window to see an airplane descend into the side of the Pentagon, where the Navy offices where five friends and colleagues of mine were located.
Then, at about 9:40 am Eastern Daylight Time, my husband and I heard an aircraft directly overhead. At first, we thought it was the jets that sometimes fly overhead. However, it appeared to be a small commercial aircraft. The engine was at full throttle. First, the plane knocked down a number of street lamp poles, then headed directly for the Pentagon and crashed on the lawn near the west side the Pentagon. A huge fireball exploded with thick black smoke.
Aydan Kizildrgli, an English language student who is a native of Turkey, saw the jetliner bank slightly then strike a western wall of the huge five-sided building that is the headquarters of the nation's military. "There was a big boom," he said. "Everybody was in shock. I turned around to the car behind me and yelled ‘Did you see that?' Nobody could believe it."
I live in Pentagon City (part of Arlington) and can see the Pentagon when I look out my window. ... It was so shocking, I was listening to the news on what had happened in New York, and just happened to look out the window because I heard a low flying plane and then I saw it hit the Pentagon. It happened so fast... it was in the air one moment and in the building the next...
One of the aircraft's engines somehow ricocheted out of the building and arched into the Pentagon's mall parking area between the main building and the new loading dock facility, said Charles H. Krohn, the Army's deputy chief of public affairs. Those fleeing the building heard a loud secondary explosion about 10 min. after the initial impact.
Ann Krug's kindergarten class saw the plane crash outside the classroom's window. "I actually pointed it out and said: 'Look at this plane; look at how low it's flying,' " Krug recalled. "And then we all saw it come down."
Sgt. William Lagasse, a Pentagon police dog handler, the son of an aviation instructor, was filling up his patrol car at a gas station near the Pentagon when he noticed a jet fly in low. He watched as the plane plowed into the Pentagon. Initially, he thought the plane was about to drop on top of him -- it was that close. Lagasse knew something was wrong. The 757's flaps were not deployed and the landing gear was retracted.
"'I saw a plane coming what I thought was toward National Airport, which is very close. You see that all the time. But this one looked different. It was at a very steep angle, and going very fast. I had been hearing about the World Trade Center before I left, and wondered, is this part of that? Then the plane disappeared, smoke started coming up, and traffic came to a complete stop," Lyman said. "We all got out of our cars. We heard another couple of explosions, and I ran and got back in my car."
David Marra, 23, an information-technology specialist, had turned his BMW off an I-395 exit to the highway just west of the Pentagon when he saw an American Airlines jet swooping in, its wings wobbly, looking like it was going to slam right into the Pentagon: "It was 50 ft. off the deck when he came in. It sounded like the pilot had the throttle completely floored. The plane rolled left and then rolled right. Then he caught an edge of his wing on the ground."
"I saw a big jet flying close to the building coming at full speed. There was a big noise when it hit the building."
At one point, he went into the charred opening, to check on the safety of workers there “There was jet fuel all over the place. It was very smoky, and it was difficult to breathe, even with a respirator,” he said.
I saw the remains of the engines in the North parking lot of the Pentagon as well as melted aluminum and other debris left from the aircraft.
Traffic is normally slow right around the Pentagon as the road winds and we line up to cross the 14th Street bridge heading into the District of Columbia. I don't know what made me look up, but I did and I saw a very low-flying American Airlines plane that seemed to be accelerating. My first thought was just 'No, no, no, no,' because it was obvious the plane was not heading to nearby Reagan National Airport. It was going to crash.
The worker, William Middleton Sr., was running his street sweeper through the cemetery when he heard a harsh whistling sound overhead. Middleton looked up and spotted a commercial jet whose pilot seemed to be fighting with his own craft. Middleton said the plane was no higher than the tops of telephone poles as it lurched toward the Pentagon. The jet accelerated in the final few hundred yards before it tore into the building.
I was right underneath the plane, said Kirk Milburn, a construction supervisor for Atlantis Co., who was on the Arlington National Cemetery exit of Interstate 395 when he said he saw the plane heading for the Pentagon. "I heard a plane. I saw it. I saw debris flying. I guess it was hitting light poles," said Milburn. "It was like a WHOOOSH whoosh, then there was fire and smoke, then I heard a second explosion."
I can’t remember exactly what I was thinking about at that moment, but 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. ... 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. The tail was barely visible when I saw the flash and subsequent fireball rise approximately 200 feet above the Pentagon.
"The building starting shaking, and I looked over and saw this big silver plane run into the side of the Pentagon. It almost knocked me off."
A silver, twin-engine American Airlines jetliner gliding almost noiselessly over the Navy Annex, fast, low and straight toward the Pentagon, just hundreds of yards away. It was a nightmare coming to life. The plane, with red and blue markings, hurtled by and within moments exploded in a ground-shaking "whoomp" as it appeared to hit the side of the Pentagon. A huge flash of orange flame and black smoke poured into the sky. Smoke seemed to change from black to white, forming a billowing column in the sky.
I don’t know whether I saw or heard it first -- this silver plane; I immediately recognized it as an American Airlines jet,” said the 25-year-old O’Keefe, managing editor of Influence, an American Lawyer Media publication about lobbying. “It came swooping in over the highway, over my left shoulder, straight across where my car was heading. I’d just heard them saying on the radio that National Airport was closing, and I thought, ‘That’s not going to make it to National Airport.’ And then I realized where I was, and that it was going to hit the Pentagon. There was a burst of orange flame that shot out that I could see through the highway overpass. Then it was just black. Just black thick smoke.
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. The thought that I was about to die was immediate and certain. This plane was going to hit me along with all the other commuters trapped on Washington Boulevard. 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.
Steve Patterson, 43, said he was watching television reports of the World Trade Center being hit when he saw a silver commuter jet fly past the window of his 14th-floor apartment in Pentagon City. The plane was about 150 yards away, approaching from the west about 20 feet off the ground, Patterson said. He said the plane, which sounded like the high-pitched squeal of a fighter jet, flew over Arlington cemetary so low that he thought it was going to land on I-395. He said it was flying so fast that he couldn't read any writing on the side. The plane, which appeared to hold about eight to 12 people, headed straight for the Pentagon but was flying as if coming in for a landing on a nonexistent runway, Patterson said. "At first I thought 'Oh my God, there's a plane truly misrouted from National,'" Patterson said. "Then this thing just became part of the Pentagon .‚.‚. I was watching the World Trade Center go and then this. It was like Oh my God, what's next?" He said the plane, which approached the Pentagon below treetop level, seemed to be flying normally for a plane coming in for a landing other than going very fast for being so low. Then, he said, he saw the Pentagon "envelope" the plane and bright orange flames shoot out the back of the building.
Scott Perry of Spotsylvania County heard a plane's engines rumbling above the Navy Annex building where he works, so he looked out his window, which faces the Pentagon. "[The plane] was coming straight into the wedge," Perry said. "I saw it crash. There was about five seconds of disbelief, and the next thing I heard was, down the hallway, a friend of mine screaming."
I looked idly out my window to the left -- and saw a plane flying so low I said, "holy cow, that plane is going to hit my car" (not my actual words). The car shook as the plane flew over. It was so close that I could read the numbers under the wing. And then the plane crashed. My mind could not comprehend what had happened. Where did the plane go? For some reason I expected it to bounce off the Pentagon wall in pieces. But there was no plane visible, only huge billows of smoke and torrents of fire.
"I was standing on the sidewalk (parallel to the site of impact)...and I saw this plane coming right at me at what seemed like 300 miles an hour. I dove towards the ground and watched this great big engine from this beautiful airplane just vaporize," said Frank Probst, a member of the Pentagon renovations crew commented. "It looked like a huge fireball, pieces were flying out everywhere."
While Rosati couldn't see the cause of the explosion, Wanda Ramey, a DPS master patrol officer, had had a bird's eye view. Ramey stood at the Mall plaza booth when she saw a low-flying airplane. "I saw the wing of the plane clip the light post, and it made the plane slant. Then the engine revved up and crashed into the west side of the building," she said. "It happened so fast. One second I saw the plane and next it was gone." Recalling those moments again, Ramey said it appeared the building sucked the plane up inside. "A few seconds later, I heard a loud boom and I saw a huge fireball and lots of smoke," she said.
As I approached the Pentagon, which was still not quite in view, listening on the radio to the first reports about the World Trade Center disaster in New York, a jetliner, apparently at full throttle and not more than a couple of hundred yards above the ground, screamed overhead. Although airplanes regularly fly over the Pentagon on their way to Reagan National Airport, just a mile or two south, this plane was too low and going too fast. As I watched it disappear behind bridges and concrete barriers I knew it was about to crash.
"The plane came in at an incredibly steep angle with incredibly high speed," said Rick Renzi, a law student who was driving by the Pentagon at the time of the crash about 9:40 a.m. The impact created a huge yellow and orange fireball, he added.
I was looking directly at it when the aircraft struck. The sight of the 757 diving in at an unrecoverable angle is frozen in my memory, but at the time, I did not immediately comprehend what I was witnessing. There was a silvery flash, an explosion, and a dark, mushroom shaped cloud rose over the building.
Rosati was in a meeting when the plane hit. "I ran down the hallway and there was smoke everywhere. You could smell the jet fuel, it was unbearable," he said. "I was overcome with smoke, but managed to get a lieutenant colonel out. I went back in to the hallway. The smoke was so dense I couldn't stay. I was ordered out."
Lt. Commander John Sayer, a Navy reservist, was riding on a bus when he heard a thud. "It sounded like a very loud clap," he said. "At first I thought an airplane had hit in front of the Pentagon, but when I got closer I saw that it had struck the Pentagon."
"A plane flew over my house," Rob Schickler, a 2001 graduate and Arlington, Va. resident, said. "It was loud, but not unusual because the [Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport] is by my house, on the other side of the Pentagon. Occasionally planes that miss the landing fly over my house." Schickler lives one mile away from the Pentagon. ... "A few seconds later, there was this sonic boom," he said. "The house shook, the windows were vibrating. Obviously something had happened. ... There was a hole in the building, and you could smell it in the air. It's a beautiful day, but you can smell the burning concrete and burning jet fuel."
On the morning of the attack, he was exiting the freeway, turning into the parking lot of the Pentagon, when he noticed a passenger plane — American Airlines Flight 77 — descend at increasing speed with its wheels up. Sheuerman, who had just heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center minutes before, realized that “it was perfectly obvious what (the plane) was going to do.” He saw the plane slam into the Pentagon.
"Where the plane came in was really at the construction entrance," says Jack Singleton, president of Singleton Electric Co. Inc., Gaithersburg MD, the Wedge One electrical subcontractor. "The plane's left wing actually came in near the ground and the right wing was tilted up in the air. That right wing went directly over our trailer, so if that wing had not tilted up, it would have hit the trailer. My foreman, Mickey Bell, had just walked out of the trailer and was walking toward the construction entrance."
As I came up along the Pentagon I saw helicopters. (...) it was headed straight for the building. It made no sense. (...) A huge jet. Then it was gone. A massive hole in the side of the Pentagon gushed smoke. The noise was beyond description. The smell seemed to singe the inside of my nose. The earth seemed to stop shaking for a second, but then sirens began and the ground seemed to shake again - this time from the incoming barrage of firetrucks, police cars. military vehicles. (...) I called my boss. I had no memory of how to work my cellphone. I hit redial and his number came up. "Something hit the Pentagon. It must have been a helicopter." I knew that wasn't true, but I heard myself say it. I heard myself believe it, if only for a minute. "Buildings don't eat planes. That plane, it just vanished. There should have been parts on the ground. It should have rained parts on my car. The airplane didn't crash. Where are the parts?"
[W]e were about 300 feet from the impact site from the collapsed building side. Me, myself and Al Wallace (ph) were standing outside when we saw the plane, not too far from where we are sitting right now, and as soon as we saw it, we started running toward the north side of the building, and that's when we heard the explosion and the incredible crash.
Dennis Smith, a building inspector and former Marine, was smoking a cigarette in the center courtyard when he heard the roar of engines and looked up in time to see the tail of a plane seconds before it exploded into the building.
Steve Snaman, manager of the datacom division for Walker Seals, watched in horror from Fort McNair (across the river) as the jetliner came in low at full throttle, banked left and smashed into the wall of the Pentagon. "We saw the plane hit the Pentagon," Snaman said. "My first reaction was to get on the Nextel to reach my men, but I couldn’t get a signal. They were in Wedge One."
SGT Dewey Snavely was driving along Arlington's Quaker Lane when the radio blasted the morning's first harrowing reports, then warned that a third plane was heading his way. Minutes later, jet engines rumbled overhead. "The guy I was with looked up and said: 'What the hell is that plane doing?' Then we heard an explosion and the truck rocked back and forth."
"I was driving away from the Pentagon in the South Pentagon lot when I hear this huge rumble, the ground started shaking … I saw this [plane] come flying over the Navy Annex. It flew over the van and I looked back and I saw this huge explosion, black smoke everywhere."
I saw the jet just before it crashed. Something big and silver, nose down going aimed like a dart straight into it. The fireball was huge, 10 stories high and our building shook hard.
Jim Sutherland, a mortgage broker, was driving near the Pentagon at 9:40 a.m. when he saw a 737 airplane 50 feet over Interstate 395 heading in a straight line into the side of the Pentagon. The fireball explosion that followed rocked his car. Drivers began pulling over to the side - some taking pictures - not quite believing what they were seeing.
"My first thought was he's not going to make it across the river to [Reagan] National Airport. But whoever was flying the plane made no attempt to change direction," Sucherman said. "It was coming in at a high rate of speed, but not at a steep angle--almost like a heat-seeking missile was locked onto its target and staying dead on course."
"I looked over my shoulder and you can hear the plane coming in, it was just so loud. Normally you don't see planes on that side of the Pentagon, and that was my first thought. I thought, 'What is he doing on that side of the Pentagon, it's so strange.' And then you could just see him descend and just keep descending lower and lower, until he was almost on top of Route 27 that runs alongside the Pentagon. And then he just slammed into the Pentagon, you just knew he was going to hit the Pentagon, I mean there was no way he could not have hit it."
Pulling away from the Pentagon there was tons of stuff on the ground, big pieces of metal, concrete, everything. We got up to a certain point and there was this huge piece of something - I mean it was big, it looked like a piece of an engine or something - in the road.
"'I glanced up just at the point where the plane was going into the building,' said Carla Thompson, who works in an Arlington, Va., office building about 1,000 yards from the crash. 'I saw an indentation in the building and then it was just blown-up up—red, everything red,' she said. 'Everybody was just starting to go crazy. I was petrified.'"
I could see the roof of the Pentagon and, in the distance, the Washington Monument. I heard the scream of a jet engine and, turning to look, saw my driver’s side window filled with the fuselage of the doomed airliner. It was flying only a couple of hundred feet off the ground — I could see the passenger windows glide by. The plane looked as if it were coming in for a landing — cruising at a shallow angle, wings level, very steady. But, strangely, the landing gear was up and the flaps weren’t down. I knew what was about to happen, but my brain couldn’t quite process the information. Like the other commuters on the road, I was stunned into disbelief. The fireball that erupted upon impact blossomed skyward, and the blast hit us in a wave.
A pilot who saw the impact, Tim Timmerman, said it had been an American Airways 757. "It added power on its way in," he said. "The nose hit, and the wings came forward and it went up in a fireball." Smoke and flames poured out of a large hole punched into the side of the Pentagon.
“I opened the curtains and saw the plane hit the Pentagon,” she said. “At first it was just black smoke and then it was fire. … It's like you are watching something and you don't really believe it.”
Thomas D. Trapasso, a political appointee in the Clinton Administration who is now looking for work, was making telephone calls from his deck in Arlington Village, about 1 mi. south of the Pentagon and just west of the Interstate 395 (I-395) highway. He was startled by the large American Airlines aircraft flying about 300 ft. overhead. "The engines were just screaming, and the wheels were up," Trapasso said. "It disappeared over the trees, and I heard a boom. I knew something awful had happened--that an airplane had crashed somewhere in Washington, D.C. Then the cell phone went dead. I was scared."
Brig. Gen. Clyde Vaughn of the U.S. Army, director of military support, told reporters he was in his car on nearby Interstate 395 when the plane hit the Pentagon on Tuesday morning. Vaughn said "I was scanning the air" as he was sitting in his car. "There wasn't anything in the air, except for one airplane, and it looked like it was loitering over Georgetown, in a high, left-hand bank," he said. "That may have been the plane. I have never seen one on that (flight) pattern." ... A few minutes later, Vaughn witnessed the craft's impact.
"It was like an earthquake" , "By the time I got outside all I could see was a giant cloud of smoke, first white then black, coming from the Pentagon," he said. Velasquez says the gas station's security cameras are close enough to the Pentagon to have recorded the moment of impact. "I've never seen what the pictures looked like," he said. "The FBI was here within minutes and took the film."
"...it turned and came around in front of the vehicle and it clipped one of these light poles ... and slammed right into the Pentagon right there." "Now there are some people who say that it skipped and went into the Pentagon and it may have gone that way, but that’s not what I saw. What I saw was the jet went very low into the Pentagon and it went straight." "It seemed like it was a slow, graceful bank and then once it straightened out, that's when it sped up." "...you could see chunks of the wreckage on the ground, pieces of the plane.... It literally disintegrated on impact. It hit, and as it went into the side of the building it sheared off the wings."
Ian Wyatt glanced into the sky just as a commercial airplane roared by about 100 yards off the ground. ... "It was going so fast and it was so low," he said, standing on Army-Navy Drive. "The only intelligent thought that came into my head was, 'Oh my God, they hit the Pentagon.' I could then hear cars squealing all around and people were just stunned."
Madelyn Zakhem, executive secretary at the STC (VDOT Smart Traffic Center), had just stepped outside for a break and was seated on a bench when she heard what she thought was a jet fighter directly overhead. It wasn't. It was an airliner coming straight up Columbia Pike at tree-top level. "It was huge! It was silver. It was low -- unbelievable! I could see the cockpit. I fell to the ground.... I was crying and scared". "If I had been on top of our building, I would have been close enough to reach up and catch it,"
Pentagon eyewitness accounts compiled by individuals from press reports and correspondence:
An extensive collection compiled by French researcher Eric Bart
A smaller collection found on a website devoted to 'debunking alternative Pentagon crash theories'
The Pentagon was hit by a plane, end of story.
See also: Flight 77 Hijacker Hani Hanjour: 9/11 Pilot Extraordinaire
What Really Happened