By Candace Hewitt, This Week in the Pentagon Producer
It’s been more than a week since the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist. And although life goes on as usual for most of us, collectively, as a country the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden is truly remarkable. As details of the military and intelligence operation continue to unfold, it can only be described as amazing. It was the culmination of so much hard work done by so many, with so much determination – to find the man known as the face of terror.
September 11, 2001 is a day that I, like most, will never forget. I remember getting ready to walk out the door for work and hearing on television that two planes had just crashed in New York, into the Twin Towers. As I stood in disbelief watching what had just happened, I kept thinking it had to be an accident. Who would do this? It was evil. By the time I made it into work and learned of a third plane crashing into the Pentagon, and another plane to the ground in Shanksville, Pennsylvania – it was obvious the United States of America had been attacked.
Less than 48 hours later, I was granted permission to interview a survivor from the Pentagon for the national news organization I worked for at the time. When I showed up at the hospital, the nurses told me the woman had suffered burns on nearly 60% of her body. As I was being escorted to her room, I could smell the burning flesh. There was a room full of people around her, along with plenty of cards and flowers. I sat down in a chair beside her bed as she slowly began telling me about that day at work. Painstakingly, she spoke. The smoke and fumes from the fire had scorched her lungs. September 11, 2001 had been her second day of work, at her new job at the Pentagon. She had just been relocated to the Pentagon from another duty-station out West. That morning she was in a meeting with 30 or so people when the plane struck. She and a co-worker were thrown back by the explosion – they were the only survivors from that meeting. Each of them, she said, crawled over and under debris on their hands and knees, in the pitch black, looking for a way out. She said they kept clapping their hands, hoping someone would hear, and know they were alive. Someone eventually did hear their claps, and would help get them get to a window. That’s when she said they jumped to safety, into the arms of a Marine, there to help with the rescue.
Months later after the woman began to heal from her injuries – she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show where she retold that same story of survival. She was so thankful to be alive. With the death of Osama bin Laden I hope I never have to sit through the telling of a story like that again. A story of the pain, and the suffering, caused by a terrorist attack.