Jeffrey Matthews is an Army Civilian Police Officer at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., and a member of AFGE Local 2004. On Sept. 11, 2001, Jeffrey was serving with the Defense Protective Service police force. He recalls reporting to duty on that harrowing day.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was employed as a federal police officer with the Defense Protective Service (now called the U.S. Pentagon Police). I lived in a little Pennsylvania town named Saxton, just north of Bedford and just south of the Raystown Lake. I remember waking up that morning and looking outside and thinking to myself – how peaceful, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping in the trees and as I sat down on my porch to have my first cup of coffee the peace came to an end. I saw on my TV screen through the living room window a plane fly into the World Trade Center. I ran into the house, donned my police uniform, grabbed my weapon, jumped into my car and started heading for the Pentagon. I had a gut feeling that there was more to come. During my drive I listened to the radio and found out that a second plane had flown into the Trade Center, and that a plane also flew into the Pentagon. My heart sank into my chest. I knew this was no accident and that my country was at war. The further I drove the angrier I became, and my foot became a block of steel pressing my gas pedal to the floor and flying like the wind. I approached a small rest stop area on Interstate 70 near Hancock, Md., and the next thing I knew my car was almost blown off of the road by two jet fighters flying low and fast overhead, the after burners clapping like thunder and making my ears ring. I was stopped in the area of Middletown, Md., by a state trooper who as soon as he recognized my uniform said to follow him. I was escorted the whole way down to the I-495 Beltway at the American Legion Bridge, where I met up with a Virginia state trooper who escorted me to the Pentagon.
As I approached the Pentagon, the smoke was still billowing from the building. There were helicopters taking the injured away. It was pure chaos. I met up with my co-workers in the area of the South Pentagon parking lot. I was assigned a weapon and took up a location adjacent to Columbia Pike, scanning the crowds and onlookers for snipers. I eventually was assigned to guard the morgue tent. While performing this duty, I was appalled by the media attempting to get a peek into the morgue and disrespect the remains of my brothers and sisters who lost their lives on that day. I spent the next 26 hours helping the U.S. Marshals Service provide scene security and helping the FBI collect and document evidence. I later learned that my fellow officers – K-9 Officer Hupie and Officer Clodfelter , just to name two – were pulling people from the burning building. Being the curious cop that I am, I did get to view the plane’s nose cone penetrating into the C wing of the Pentagon. I remember seeing a body smashed into what was left of the windshield of the plane and vividly thinking, “I have stared into the face of Satan, and I still remain to fight another day.”
When I finally was told to go home and get some sleep, sleep didn’t come for me for days. I had fits of being angry straight into curling up and crying for hours. A day or two after the incident, I found out that a very good friend of mine, a naval officer, was killed in the blaze while she attempted to rescue others.
It has been 10 years and still to this day, I am plagued with night sweats and reoccurring dreams of fire balls falling from the sky. I can’t take loud noises anymore without almost going into a fit, and I find that my ability to hold my temper in check when dealing with some people is limited. I have been told that this is PTSD and it never really goes away, that it only gets easier to deal with in time.