A 9/11 flag unfurling ceremony was held Wednesday at the Pentagon. This ceremony, on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, was dedicated to honoring not only the fallen, but the first responders who were on scene in 2001. Members of then Fort Myer’s Fire Company 160 were the first emergency responders at the Pentagon when the plane hit the building. Photo by Julia Simpkins

Joint base to pay homage during Patriot Day observance

On Friday Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall will pay homage to those who lost their lives during the worst terrorist act on U.S. soil with observances at the Fort Myer Fire Station and the Fort McNair Flagpole.  

On Sept. 11, 2001, at 8:45 a.m., terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Then, at 9:03 a.m., United Flight 175 hit the South Tower. Every-one onboard of both flights were killed along with 2,606 people on the ground.

Prior to Flight 11 hitting First North Trade Center Tower, American Airlines Flight 77 took off from Dulles Airport at 8:20 a.m. The flight was headed to Los Angeles, and at 9:37 a.m., the hijackers flew Flight 77 into the western wall of the Pentagon, killing everyone onboard as well as 125 service members and civilians in the Pentagon.

A fourth flight, United Flight 93, was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Since the plane had been delayed, passengers learned about the events in New York and at the Pentagon. 

Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned an insurrection, according to history.com. A few of the passengers and flight crew were able to overpower the hijackers and flew it into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and killed everyone onboard. 

Three Fort Myer firefighter were onsite at the Pentagon at the time Flight 77 flew into the building — firefighters Allan Wallace, Mark Skipper and Dennis Young. Wallace and Skipper were working next to Fort Myer’s air and crash vehicle Foam 161 parked at the Pentagon that morning. 

The airplane hit to the right of where the fire truck was parked. The truck took on some of the ensuing blast with the rear of the truck catching on fire. Wallace and Skipper had only seconds to run when they saw the airplane approaching. The fire truck saved their lives, protecting them from the fire and flying debris that followed.  They, together with Young, began to assist people who were trying to escape the burning building.

Fort Myer first responders were the first to arrive on the scene and were soon joined by Arlington County and other area first responders. Fort Myer firefighters, police, military and medical personnel worked closely with Arlington County and Federal agencies during the initial response and rescue at the Pentagon.

During the observances at Forts Myer and McNair there will be bell tollings at 9:37

a.m., the time Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

The bell tolling is significant because it’s based upon a pattern, an original method of communication that a firefighter had fallen, which was the telegraph. The telegraph would tap out the word ‘fell’ with five measured dashes, pause and then repeat. The bell is rung a set of five, four times.

A moment of silence and a bugler playing taps will follow the bell tolling at Fort Myer.