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Remembering 9/11/2001

Yvette Smith 

By Guest Blogger Yvette Smith, published earlier today on  Re-published with permission.


I can’t believe it’s been seven years since September 11, 2001.  It seems like yesterday to me. Why, you ask?  Because I was at the Pentagon on that day.  Here’s my story:

At that time, I was an Active Duty service member in the United States Army.  I worked as a Radiology Technologist at the DiLorenzo TRICARE Health Clinic in the Pentagon.  DTHC is an outpatient clinic that had radiology, lab, optometry, occupational health, podiatry and a few more ancillary services.  We treated Active duty service members as well as staff that worked at the Pentagon.  We performed minor surgeries on an outpatient basis.  We had just moved into a new, state-of- the-art facility in 2000.

The day started just like any other Army day.  PT (physical training), which consisted of a run, some push-ups and sit-ups (boy, do I long for that body that I had then!).  That was followed by a shower and a good breakfast from the POAC (the gym in the Pentagon had a little restaurant).  A little shop talk with my supervisor, followed by our morning stroll through the Concourse (where all the shops & stores are) to the side where the plane hit.  

No we weren’t there at that time, but just 10 minutes shy of leaving (the time it took us to get back to the clinic), the plane hit.  You see, the Pentagon is HUGE.  There’s a lot of walking involved depending on where you need to go.  So, we weren’t hurrying to get back (it was still early, patients hadn’t arrived yet).  

When we returned to the clinic, everyone in the waiting area was watching the T.V.  Now, we didn’t know what was going on at that point.  I was amazed and couldn’t believe my eyes when the 2nd plane crashed into the WTC.  My thoughts were, “you never know when your time is coming, so you’ve always gotta be right with whomever your Saviour is.”

No more than 2, maybe 3 minutes later, the nurse of the day (NOD) comes into the radiology office and says “GET OUT NOW!”  Now, I’ve always been a person to question any and everything/one, but on that day, it was the look in her eyes and the desperation in her voice…I knew something bad was happening.

We were all frantic, leaving the building, getting our EMT packs.  We were trying to treat people outside.  A pregnant woman was hyperventilating, someone had a gash and was bleeding profusely from their head.  My supervisor SFC Powell said they need medics inside to treat wounded.  I didn’t think twice, I strapped a pack on my back and along with 2 other soldiers, we ran back inside the building.

My heart was pounding, it was surreal, almost like an outer body experience.  We ran to the center of the Pentagon – the Courtyard.  A designated smoking place, a place where you could go eat lunch and get some fresh air or socialize at any time of day.  On this day, it was filled with smoke, it was dark and grim.

There were wounded people everywhere.  The ones who’d escaped, who had jumped from the windows.  

We started IV’s, we splinted legs as the Chaplains walked around and prayed with people.  I thought, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown right here, but I can’t, gotta hold it together for these people.  

At that time, I still didn’t know what the heck had happened.  I didn’t know if bombs were dropped or what.  All I knew is that we were in a state of devastation.  While we were in the Courtyard, we heard planes, everyone panicked even more.  There was no where to run, we were in the center of the building, we were scared to death.

You see, cell phones weren’t working, so many calls jammed all the lines.  When we finally got got out the 2nd time, we brought beds from the clinic & all the supplies we had and began treating wounded along the street and in the parking lots.  

Everyone was using everyone’s cell phone.  I was finally able to call my family.  I can’t tell you how relieved they were.  From the time that plane hit until about 2 or 3 o’clock that afternoon, I was unable to use a phone.  So, they had no idea if I was alright.

My husband worked at the Pentagon too.  He was working for the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld at the time.  He was off that day.  I was thinking about him as I assisted those who needed it.  It was like something from a movie…I looked up and there he was.  My first words to him?  “What in the world are you doing here?” His words?  ” I was looking for you…wanted to know that you are ok”  We embraced & I was relieved.  Then I told him I had to get back to work.

Boy, it was a long day and an even longer night.  I spent all day and all night there.  We set up shop outside the site.  We watched that fire burn all night.  I slept on the back of our mini ambulance.  I couldn’t leave, something in me wouldn’t let me go.

It took a while to get things back in order.  The RED CROSS were god-sends.  They came quickly, set up shop and had hot food around the clock for all the staff.  I stayed there nearly 2 days without leaving.  To this very day, I still have a fear of planes flying over my head.  I get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.

My friend Zenovia Cuyler, who worked with me at the clinic, lost her mother that day.  Her mother worked at the PENTAGON.  She searched frantically for her, but never found her.  

I think there is a part of each of us that was lost that day.  I can never, ever tell this story without getting emotional.  Thank you for allowing me to share it with you.  It’s just a constant reminder to EXPRESS YOUR LOVE.  Tell whoever is important to you that you love them, that they mean the world to you.  Tomorrow is not promised.  


Courtesy of Yvette Smith, SRES® REALTOR®



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