September 11, 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the devastating attacks that forever changed the course of American history. Our members reflect on the impact that day had on them both personally and professionally. AFGE 4th District National Vice President Joseph Flynn represents federal employees in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. On that day he had scheduled a meeting at AFGE headquarters with 4th District National Representatives Richard Fitch and Reinhard Witiak (now retired) who while driving to the meeting witnessed the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Read Their Account Here.
It amazes me that certain events stick with you as if they happened only yesterday. Time, date, location, and setting remain fixed in your consciousness regardless of the passage of time. Two such events are imbedded in my mind.
The first was the assassination of President John F Kennedy.
The second was the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
I had scheduled a 9:30 a.m. staff meeting at AFGE Headquarters that morning. I drove to the Greenbelt Metro and hopped a train to Union Station. I made the short walk to the AFGE building and went to the 12th floor. It was around 9 a.m. I noticed Cathy Butz was in her office. She saw me and said “Joe come see this. They think a plane may have struck one of the towers of the World Trade Center”. We both looked at the TV. Smoke and fire were bellowing out of the top floors of the Tower. As we watched we heard that a second plane had crashed into the other tower. We saw coverage of the second plane hitting that tower. I remember the TV announcer suggesting that the two crashes were “a rare accident that may have been caused by a navigational system failure.” I looked over at Cathy and said “I can’t believe they’re still standing. What a testament to American engineering.” I left Cathy’s office and decided to walk down the street and have a cup of coffee before the staff meeting.
Returning, I ran into a group of employees at the entrance to AFGE’s building. One of them said to me “the Pentagon’s been bombed. DC is under attack”. I went to the 12th floor. Cathy confirmed the story.
I’m in the conference room. With me is NR Carl Gentile. We’re waiting for NR Witiak and NR Fitch. They show up at 10 a.m. NR Fitch tells us they saw a plane hit the Pentagon about 20 minutes earlier as they passed by on their way to the meeting. “You can see the smoke from here” said NR Witiak. We took the elevator to the top floor of the building. NR Witiak was right. You could see plumes of smoke rising from where the Pentagon was located. So much for the staff meeting. We decided it was time leave. I rode home with NR Gentile.