U.S. Capital Faces Terror on Own Turf

by Bill McAllister
The Denver Post
September 11, 2001

WASHINGTON - There was a slight murmur in the audience at the Postal Service headquarters when the board chairman announced that two planes had hit the World Trade Center in New York.

A few moments later an audible gasp went up from the rear of the audience as a large black plume of smoke arose from the Pentagon. Terrorism suddenly was at the doorstep and clearly visible through the big glass windows overlooking the Potomac River. Overhead, fighter jets scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base and other installations and cross-crossed the skies amid reports that more hijacked planes were bound for the Capitol on suicide missions.

'My God, it's like we're at war,' said a woman as the jets streaked overhead. As she spoke, a sonic boom shook downtown Washington, and all eyes scanned the horizon for signs of another explosion. There was little panic, but federal buildings across the city were closed, and thousands of workers jammed subways as they tried to leave the city. 'It's like the lifeboats on the Titanic,' said one worker as he struggled to gain access to one of the few midmorning trains.

Streets in the Capitol were jammed. Police guarded streets around the White House, and firetrucks were having difficulty answering alarms.

Rumors were rampant, including false reports that explosions had hit the Executive Office Building and the Capitol.

'Everybody's just getting paranoid,' said an annoyed Roderick Jones, a bike messenger, as he attempted weave through the crowds.

Police in full SWAT gear had automatic weapons at the ready. D.C. fire and ambulance crews set up command posts along Pennsylvania Avenue, near theWhite House.

An agitated man climbed aboard the Yellow line subway train at the Pentagon station, complaining that overly aggressive guards had just cleared the station, yelling that there was a bomb. Fellow passengers told him that the World Trade Center in New York had been hit by a terrorist plane moments before.

As the train emerged from a tunnel and crossed the Potomac, one woman pointed out the window and shouted, 'What's that?'

A thick plume of smoke was climbing out of the hollow center of the Pentagon. Everyone on the train understood what had happened moments before.

'Oh my God, it's started,' sighed the man who had been complaining moments before.


� Copyright 2001

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