- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

Before Tuesday, planes flew out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and past the Pentagon every day without much notice from Arlington County Fire Department Capt. Stephen McCoy. But that day, the 21-year fire service veteran knew something was wrong when he saw the American Airlines jetliner fly so low.
"After it hit, we saw the big mushroom cloud," Capt. McCoy said, describing what he and his crew of three saw as they were driving in their engine from Fire Company 101 in Shirlington to Crystal City. "We just thought it was going to be chaos and hell and it was."
Capt. McCoy, 41, and his crew were first on the scene after terrorists crashed Flight 77 into the west side of the Pentagon. Military officials say as many as 190 lives were lost, including the 64 persons on board the plane.
Capt. McCoy didn't have time to consider the devastation, nor did anyone else. All they could do was respond and treat the wounded. Still, some images will forever be in the minds of the firefighters on scene a little after 9:40 Tuesday morning.
"There were severe burns. Some with their clothes still smoldering," Arlington County Fire Capt. Ed Blunt said of the injuries he saw when he pulled up to the scene, the flames engulfing part of the Pentagon.
Selflessness was obvious, among firefighters and victims, Capt. Blunt said.
Capt. Blunt described one man, dressed in an Army uniform, who wanted to make sure others got help.
"He had both of his hands basically cut off" at the wrist, Capt. Blunt said, but "he was concerned about us treating others."
Battling the blaze was frustrating at first, Capt. McCoy said, because threats of more suicide attacks forced fire crews to evacuate.
The fire raged inside for more than 24 hours before being brought under control. Firefighters searched through darkness in heavy black smoke and suffocating heat.
"With the concrete flooring, it made it feel like an oven," Capt. McCoy said.
After searching for survivors from 7 p.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. Thursday, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Lt. Craig Luecke, who is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, said the collapsed and charred building "was like a burning hell in there, like a furnace."
"There is a lot of carnage in there," Lt. Luecke said.
Another rescue worker from Fairfax County, Capt. Jerry Roussillon, said he just thinks about the loved ones who want to have the remains of their relatives returned when he becomes weary.
"I can be tired," he said of the sacrifice he is making.
Military personnel who were inside of the Pentagon at the time of the attack also rushed to help victims, friends and colleagues.
"When we were getting people out, I at first didn't understand the magnitude" of the blast, Lt. Greg Goodman said.
Lt. Goodman, who works in the Office of Navy Warfare, was only seven windows down on the fourth floor of the E Ring in the 400 corridor when the plane smashed into the building. The smoldering remains of his office is two windows to the left of where a large American flag is now draped.
As soon as he heard the call to evacuate, Lt. Goodman — who is a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Cabin John Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland — rushed to aide victims.
"We didn't know what had happened," he said, adding that he felt "very thankful and very fortunate" to be alive.
Army medic Master Sgt. James Smith, who is the chief medical noncommissioned officer in the office of the chief surgeon, said his first concern after getting out of his office in Ring C near the blast was the victims.
"We tried to get the victims out as long as we could stand the smoke," Sgt. Smith said. "They just wanted help, they were crying for help."
Sgt. Smith is just a month shy of retirement, with 29 year and 11 months of service. In the wake of the attack, though, he's determined to stay on and defend his country.
"I will be here a few more years," Sgt. Smith said.


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