Fifteen Years Ago We Weren’t Connected Minute-by-Minute to the Latest News

By Jack Limpert

On September 11, 2001, Brian Lamb, the head of C-SPAN, and I, along with Washingtonian writer Chuck Conconi, were having breakfast at the Mayflower Hotel on DC’s Connecticut Avenue. When we got there at 8:30, another dozen journalists were in the dining room—Al Hunt, Bill Kristol, and others.

About 9:45 Brian, Chuck and I finished our breakfast conversation—lots of good ideas came out of it—and we left the Mayflower dining room, stopping to gossip with some of the other journalists and then heading back to our offices.

When I got to the Washingtonian’s offices, two blocks away, the magazine staff was sitting silently in the publisher’s office, staring uncomprehendingly at the TV.

At 8:46, an hour earlier, American Airlines Flight 11 had flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Seventeen minutes later United Flight 175 hit the South Tower and at 9:38 American Airlines Flight 77 hit the west side of the Pentagon.

Fifteen years ago: For better or worse, we weren’t connected minute-by-minute to the latest news and most the digital revolution was yet to come.
A link to the story of 9/11 in Washington, by Tom Philpott, published in the November 2001 Washingtonian.
The rescuers of 9/11 at the Pentagon were honored by the Washingtonian as Washingtonians of the Year. The citation:


On September 11, 2001, we watched firefighters, police officers, members of search-and-rescue teams, military personnel, and civilians give new meaning to courage under fire. They entered the inferno that was the Pentagon, putting themselves in harm’s way to help others.

Five of those heroes are honored here. They represent hundreds more who went beyond the call of duty. They were joined by anonymous passersby who saw the fire and raced to help.

Lieutenant Commander David Tarantino, a Navy doctor, and Navy Captain David M. Thomas Jr. were in their Pentagon offices when the hijacked airliner hit the building. Tarantino and Thomas crawled through burning wreckage to free Jerry Henson, who was trapped in debris.

Robert Dubé, a member of Fairfax County Urban Search and Rescue, was part of the reconnaissance team that went into the burning Pentagon, searching for rescue sites. For days after the crash, they buttressed the building to keep it from collapsing on victims and rescuers.

Arlington police officer John Ritter was off-duty when the plane hit. He went to work and immediately was dispatched to the Pentagon. Finding no ambulances to get the injured to hospitals, Ritter and fellow officers arranged volunteer brigades and cleared the way to transport the wounded.

Army Chaplain Alvin Sykes saw the fire through the window of his Crystal City office. He walked to the Pentagon and joined an emergency extraction team to search for survivors. Later, he and other chaplains formed a “chain of dignity” to say blessings over the dead and to pray with the searchers.

Arlington County firefighters raced to the Pentagon. For 16 hours, they burrowed through black smoke and burning debris, looking for victims and containing the fire.

Some Washington fire and rescue workers went to New York as volunteers in the search-and-rescue effort at the World Trade Center.

“We all gave some because some gave all,” says Laytonsville volunteer firefighter Luke Hodgson.

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