Flight 77 lost to radar
Witness accounts of the attack, many saw airliner hit building
First responders and rescue efforts
Human remains recovery and identification
Recommended Book: "Tragedy and Heroism: September 11, 2001 at the Pentagon"
JREF: Andrew Burfield on AA77 time missing/timeline
Air Traffic Controller Danielle O'Brien Oct '01 Interview
Air Traffic Control transcripts– AA 77 (PDF)
It is likely that hundreds of people directly saw flight 77 hit the Pentagon. Dozens were interviewed by numerous news outlets: Witness List 1 – List 2 – List 3 – List 4 – List 5 – More
Pentagon witness spreadsheet (Excel file)
Many witnesses were in their cars, in a traffic jam directly in front of the Pentagon. Most of those people drove away and were not interviewed. Below is a summary of the accounts quoted in the lists and spreadsheet summary above. These are mostly accounts that appeared in mainstream media reports. Many more people probably witnessed the attack.
From the lists above, 136 people saw the plane approach the Pentagon, and
104 directly saw the plane hit the Pentagon.
6 were nearly hit by the plane in front of the Pentagon. Several others were within 100-200 feet of the impact.
26 mentioned that it was an American Airlines jet.
39 others mentioned that it was a large jet/commercial airliner.
2 described a smaller corporate jet. 1 described a "commuter plane" but didn't mention the size.
7 said it was a Boeing 757.
8 witnesses were pilots. One witness was an Air Traffic Controller and Pentagon tower Chief.
2 witnesses were firefighters working on their truck at the Pentagon heliport.
4 made radio calls to inform emergency services that a plane had hit the Pentagon.
10 said the plane's flaps and landing gear were not deployed (1 thought landing gear struck a light pole).
16 mentioned seeing the plane hit light poles/trees, or were next to to the poles when it happened. Another 8 mentioned the light poles being knocked down: it's unknown if they saw them hit.
42 mentioned seeing aircraft debris. 4 mentioned seeing airline seats. 3 mentioned engine parts.2 mentioned bodies still strapped into seats.
15 mentioned smelling or contacting aviation/jet fuel.
3 had vehicles damaged by light poles or aircraft debris. Several saw other occupied vehicles damaged.
3 took photographs of the aftermath.
Many mentioned false alarm warnings of other incoming planes after the crash. One said "3-4 warnings."
And of course,
0 saw a military aircraft or missile strike the Pentagon.
0 saw a plane narrowly miss the Pentagon and fly away.
Video: pilot Aziz ElHallan saw flight 77 hit Pentagon, shows aircraft debris that landed near his car.
No plane hit the Pentagon? Tell that to Mickey Bell, Sean Boger, Omar Campo, Michael DiPaula, Frank Probst, and Jack Singleton, all of whom saw flight 77 approach and came within feet of being struck as it roared across the Pentagon lawn. Probst dove out of the way to avoid being hit by the 757's right engine, which tore through this fence and damaged the construction generator trailer at right:
Frank Probst, an information management specialist for the Pentagon Renovation Program, left his office trailer near the Pentagon's south parking lot at 9:36 a.m. Sept. 11. Walking north beside Route 27, the 6'2" Vietnam Veteran looked up, directly into the right engine of a 757 commercial airliner cresting the hilltop Navy Annex. It reached him so fast and flew so low that Probst dropped to the ground, fearing he'd lose his head to its right engine. "Had I not hit the deck, the plane would have taken off my head."Source
Mark Willams: "When Williams discovered the scorched bodies of several airline passengers, they were still strapped into their seats. The stench of charred flesh overwhelmed him.
'It was the worst thing you can imagine,' said Williams, whose squad from Fort Belvoir, Va., entered the building, less than four hours after the terrorist attack. 'I wanted to cry from the minute I walked in. But I have soldiers under me and I had to put my feelings aside.' "Source
"I did see airplane seats and a corpse still strapped to one of the seats."
–Capt. Jim Ingledue, Virginia Beach Fire Dept. Source
Reporter Mike Walter responds to conspiracists: Yes, I saw an American Airlines jet hit the Pentagon.
14 Pentagon eyewitness accounts on video
C-130 pilot Steve O'Brien saw both the flight 77 attack and the aftermath of flight 93
Chaplains on the Scene––The Priests of September 11, 2001: Men of Word and Sacrament
Steve Riskus: "I could see the "American Airlines" logo...It knocked over a few light poles in its way." Mark Bright: "...at the height of the street lights. It knocked a couple down." Mike Walter: "...it clipped one of these light poles ... and slammed right into the Pentagon right there. It was an American Airlines jet." Rodney Washington: "...knocking over light poles" Kirk Milburn: "I heard a plane. I saw it. I saw debris flying. I guess it was hitting light poles." Afework Hagos: "It hit some lampposts on the way in." Kat Gaines: "saw a low-flying jetliner strike the top of nearby telephone poles." D.S. Khavkin: "First, the plane knocked down a number of street lamp poles." Wanda Ramey: "I saw the wing of the plane clip the light post, and it made the plane slant. Penny Elgas: A piece of American Airlines Flight 77 was torn from the plane as it clipped a light pole. It landed in her car. Now in the Smithsonian Institution's 9/11 collection. Lincoln Liebner: "It was probably about thirty feet off the ground, clipping the lampposts. I could clearly see through the windows of the plane. It was maybe going 500 miles an hour - when it just flew...into the Pentagon ... less than a hundred yards away."Bizarrely, the video Loose Change, which has been revised twice (purportedly to correct errors) still claims that "Flight 77 managed to tear 5 light poles completely out of the ground, without damaging either the wings or the light poles themselves." Do the poles in these photos appear to be undamaged?
Conspiracists are afraid to have their fantasies destroyed, so they scrupulously avoid contacting the hundreds of Pentagon 9/11 first responders and the over 8,000 people who worked on rescue, recovery, evidence collection, building stabilization, and security in the days after 9/11. These are just some of the organizations whose members worked on the scene:
Alexandria VA Fire & Rescue, American Airlines, American Red Cross, Arlington County Emergency Medical Services, Arlington County Fire Department, Arlington County Sheriff's Department, Arlington VA Police Department, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, DiLorenzo TRICARE Health Clinic staff, DeWitt Army Community Hospital staff, District of Columbia Fire & Rescue, DOD Honor Guard, Environmental Protection Agency Hazmat Teams, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue, FBI Evidence Recovery Teams, FBI Hazmat Teams, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams, FEMA 68-Person Urban Search and Rescue Teams Maryland Task Force 1, New Mexico Task Force 1, Tennessee Task Force 1, Virginia Task Force 1, Virginia Task Force 2, FEMA Emergency Response Team, Fort Myer Fire Department, Four U.S. Army Chaplains, Metropolitan Airport Authority Fire Unit, Military District of Washington Engineers Search & Rescue Team, Montgomery County Fire & Rescue, U.S. National Guard units, National Naval Medical Center CCRF, National Transportation Safety Board, Pentagon Defense Protective Service, Pentagon Helicopter Crash Response Team, Pentagon Medical Staff, Rader Army Health Clinic Staff, SACE Structural Safety Engineers and Debris Planning and Response Teams, Salvation Army Disaster Services, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, US Army Reserves of Virginia Beach Fairfax County and Montgomery County, Virginia Beach Fire Department, Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia State PoliceOf course, many of the first responders were not trained at rescue, but were Pentagon workers who displayed extraordinary courage that day. One of them was Army Captain (now Major) Lincoln Liebner, who entered the burning building four times to effect rescues, was taken to the hospital, then returned to the Pentagon that afternoon to his job in the Cable Office. First, he saw flight 77 hit the building:
I was just about to make my turn up the sidewalk towards one of the entrances when I heard jet engines. It was not the normal jet track into National Airport, which is very, very different. I turned my head about maybe 90 degrees towards the sound of the engines, which were very loud. I fully expected to see A-10s or F-15s or something, and I saw the American Airlines airplane coming down. I watched the entire terminal descent into the building. It’s probably the loudest noise I ever heard in my life. I have heard artillery very close. I have heard rock concerts, but nothing came close to that noise. I watched the entire airplane go into the building.
...Even at this point, I don’t believe the Secretary [Rumsfeld] was confident that, in fact, a civilian airliner had hit the building. I think they still speculated about a bomb, a cruise missile, a small aircraft, but I was glad I was able to give useful information. I told them the plane came in full throttle, level, flaps up, wheels up, wasn’t crashed into the building, was flown into the building.
The Secretary was essentially incredulous, but, then again, maybe that was just his manner. He asked me if I was sure. And as I said, I was close enough to look into the windows of the airplane as it flew past. There was no doubt in my mind what I had seen.Read more of Liebner's dramatic story here (PDF). And here.
"The other person who was instrumental and did an outstanding job throughout all of this was an Air Force Master Sergeant, Master Sergeant Sepulveda, who left the building because his meeting was over, and right when he walked out, he actually saw the plane hit the Pentagon and it knocked him on the ground. He got up immediately afterwards and ran right to the explosion area. We hooked up right at the very beginning and worked side-by-side during the entire operation. His assistance was invaluable. He had experience at the Beirut bombing as well." –Lieutenant Colonel Patty Horoho–Source
Firefighter Alan Wallace, at the Pentagon heliport, was working on his truck when he saw flight 77 approach.
About 9:40, Alan Wallace had finished fixing the foam metering valve on the back of his fire truck parked in the Pentagon fire station and walked to the front of the station. He looked up and saw a jetliner coming straight at him. It was about 25 feet off the ground, no landing wheels visible, a few hundred yards away and closing fast.
"Runnnnn!" he yelled to a pal. There was no time to look back, barely time to scramble. He made it about 30 feet, heard a terrible roar, felt the heat, and dove underneath a van, skinning his stomach as he slid along the blacktop, sailing under it as though he were riding a luge. The van protected him against burning metal that was flying around.
A few seconds later he was sliding back out to check on his friend and then race back to the firetruck. He jumped in, threw it into gear, but the accelerator was dead. The entire back of the truck was destroyed, the cab on fire. He grabbed the radio headset and called the main station at Fort Myer to report the unimaginable. Please read Alan Wallace's account: http://tinyurl.com/p6gmm
Other firefighters saw the plane's impact:
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. I made a quick U-turn and was on scene within a minute to a minute and a half of the initial impact.SourceArlington County After-Action Report on the Response to the September 11 Terrorist Attack on the Pentagon (PDF)
USA Today Pentagon searchers encounter grisly scenes (9/13/01)
"Once I had [the outside fires] pretty much knocked down, then I went into the area of the first floor where all the fire was, and just trying to get on that," he said. "It was something to fight with, until we got the other foam trucks there."
He said the foam units got there and concentrated on the area of the construction trailer, which was producing some severe fires and subsequent mini explosions due to highly flammable chemicals in it, then on the actual point of impact from the hijacked aircraft.
"Luckily the chemical containers were caged," he said. "Otherwise the fires would have been worse." Source
Collapse Rescue Operations At The Pentagon 9-11 Attack: A Case Study on Urban Search and Rescue (PDF) Disaster Response
Arlington Fire Journal – Attack on the Pentagon
Fire Engineering: The Pentagon Attack – Arlington County VA FD Response
Arlington VA disaster response with photos (PDF)
Pentagon Fire Unit Wins Award
Pentagon Heliport firefighter William Yeingst audio
The Role of the Volunteer Fire Service in the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks (PDF 135 pp)
Pentagon Medics Trained For Strike
The Medics Go to War
Soldiers from Fort Belvoir's Military District of Washington Engineer Company had mixed emotions Friday about being honored for their part in Operation Noble Eagle at the Pentagon following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on America.
The MDW Engineer Company is the only unit in the U.S. Army that specializes in collapsed-building rescue. The soldiers deployed to the Pentagon immediately after the attack and worked continuous 24-hour shifts until Sept. 21. Although few had ever witnessed such a horrific disaster site, all realized the importance and significance of their mission.
Several contend that it was the most difficult deployment of their life. Others say it was just another chore that had to be completed. None will ever forget the experience of searching for and recovering the bodies of 185 innocent victims of the senseless tragedy.
"The unit has been in existence for 11 years, and people have said that 'you'll never execute your mission,'" 1st Sgt. Raymond Gould said of his troops. "People in the unit have said it. People on the installation have said it. People who have come and gone have said it."
The soldiers rigorously train to conduct technical rescue operations in support of military and federal contingencies in the National Capital Region
"It's a double-edged sword when you talk about it now. The fact that we did get called, we did execute, and that nobody got hurt is great. We were able to demonstrate to Virginia Task Force I, Maryland Task Force I, Virginia Task Force II, Tennessee and Mexico's Task Forces -- all these FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Task Forces -- that we're equally as capable, if not better, to accomplish this mission," Gould said. "Yet, on the other hand, it cost so many lives in order for us to show our worth to society. Source
Excerpt fromCollapse Rescue Operations At The Pentagon 9-11 Attack A Case Study on Urban Search and Rescue Disaster Response (PDF)
The following approach was applied to the recovery of Pentagon Incident fatalities: When a victim was located, work in the area was halted to protect the body, personal belongings, and evidence. An FBI evidence team (one of several on constant standby in front of the collapse) would document the site and gather evidence. If physical extrication was required, a Rescue Squad from the assigned US&R task force was given this task. The next step in the process was a Military Mortuary Team who collected and removed the victim from the building.
All the debris removed from the building was spread out by the heavy equipment, and (on the signal of the IST US&R Specialist) the equipment would stop and Canine Search Teams from the US&R Task Forces would deploy across the material in search of any scent indicating human remains. Then US&R Search Team members would conduct a physical search for remains, crawling and walking over all the debris. Finally, after being searched three or more times, the debris would be loaded into trucks with skip loaders, where it would be taken to one of the Pentagon parking lots to be further combed for human remains and evidence by the FBI, ATF, Military units, and the Arlington Police Department. (p. 8)
The remains of every flight 77 victim but one (a two-year-old) was recovered and positively identified by forensics experts. Personal effects of many survived the crash and fires and were returned to the victims' families.
Human Identification in a Post-9/11 World: The Attack on American Airlines Flight 77 and the Pentagon (PDF)
The only two brothers who died at the Pentagon on 9/11 were hijackers Nawaf and Salem al-Hazmi. Remains of two brothers were identified by DNA:
"The DNA results strengthened the hypothesis that two of the terrorists were brothers, as indicated by other evidence. Two of the terrorist STR profiles aboard the AA Flight 77 gave a sibling index greater than 500. To further test the hypothesis of maternal relatedness, AFDIL sequenced the HVI and HVII regions of mtDNA for these individuals. The sequences generated did match in HVI and HVII, which is consistent with a maternal relationship between the two men."–http://www.cstl.nist.gov/div831/strbase/pub_pres/Edson2004.pdf (p. 83)
Below: ID of hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi recovered at the Pentagon