The west wall of the Pentagon on September 11A dozen Army personnel, including many senior officers, went ahead with a routine, previously scheduled meeting at 9:00 a.m. on September 11, 2001, in an area of the Pentagon that was severely damaged when the building was attacked at 9:37 a.m., even though a hijacked plane had crashed into the World Trade Center 14 minutes earlier and this incident had been reported on television since 8:49 a.m. Strangely, the officers were unaware of the crash when they went into their meeting and no one interrupted the meeting to let them know the U.S. was under attack after a second hijacked aircraft hit the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. They were consequently still continuing their meeting as if nothing was wrong, oblivious to the crisis that was taking place, when the Pentagon was hit and a huge fireball erupted into their room.

Furthermore, as well as failing to alert the officers in the meeting to what had happened at the World Trade Center, the officers’ colleagues appear to have failed to do anything significant toward implementing a military response to the attacks in New York. Instead, many of them continued their usual duties after learning two aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Center and it became clear that the U.S. was in the middle of a major terrorist attack. Additionally, they appear to have made no attempt to get out of the Pentagon and to somewhere safer, even though the building was a likely target for terrorists.


The 9:00 a.m. meeting was attended by the executive officers for the various directorates and operating agencies of the Army’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (ODCSPER). The executive officers’ meeting was held every other Tuesday and usually took place in the ODCSPER conference room, as was the case on September 11. [1]

The ODCSPER “develops Army-wide personnel policies, programs, and systems to facilitate the manning, well-being, and readiness of the Army,” according to author Robert Rossow. Its workforce, comprising 185 military and 90 civilian personnel, had, in June 2001, moved to a new office space on the west side of the Pentagon. This space, on the building’s second floor, had just been renovated and had enhanced safety features, such as emergency-activated smoke doors, water sprinklers, and blast-resistant windows. The space, about an acre in size, comprised mostly of a “bay” of 138 cubicles in which ODCSPER employees worked. It also included the conference room, enclosed offices, and spaces for contractors. [2]

The executive officers’ meeting on September 11 was chaired by Colonel Philip McNair and attended by 11 other Army employees. These included Martha Carden, Lieutenant Colonel Marion Ward, Lieutenant Colonel Marilyn Wills, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Grunewald, Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Johnson, Major Stephen Long, Major Regina Grant, and Lois Stevens. Max Beilke attended the start of the meeting but left early to go to another meeting. There were also two visitors attending–Colonel Larry Thomas and Lieutenant Colonel Curtis Nutbrown–who were there to give a presentation at the end of the meeting. [3]

During the meeting, those attending took turns to give a brief update on recent activities. Matters discussed that day were “routine stuff,” according to authors Patrick Creed and Rick Newman, such as a retirement party and an upcoming conference. [4]

When the 12 Army staffers went into the executive officers’ meeting at 9:00 a.m., they were unaware that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, even though American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. and the incident had been reported on television since 8:49 a.m. [5]

News of the crash only began to circulate in the cubicle bay outside the conference room shortly after the door closed on the meeting. [6] Around 20 ODCSPER employees started watching CNN’s coverage of the crash on the television in Brigadier General Harry Axson’s office. [7] Others followed the coverage on the television in the cubicle of Marian Serva, a congressional affairs contact officer. [8]

Since the matters discussed at the executive officers’ meeting that day were “routine stuff,” ODCSPER personnel in the cubicle bay should have had no concerns about interrupting a meeting of particular importance. And yet no one went to the conference room to alert the executive officers to what had happened at the World Trade Center. [9]

ODCSPER personnel realized the U.S. was under attack after they saw United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower of the World Trade Center live on television at 9:03 a.m. “When the second plane hit, all of us knew this was a terrorist action going on,” Patrick Smith has commented. [10]

Staffers were taking significant notice of what had happened. Antwan Williams has recalled “seeing people in the hallway and at their cubicles talking about what was happening in New York.” [11] “Everyone around me was talking about it,” Lieutenant Colonel Victor Correa described. [12] And yet no one interrupted the executive officers’ meeting to tell its participants that America was under attack.


The seriousness of the situation should have become even more apparent to ODCSPER personnel when some of them were informed that the Army’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) had been activated. For example, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Beans “heard of the CAT activation” just before Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center, according to Robert Rossow. [13] Some time after the second crash occurred, Colonel Karl Knoblauch bumped into Major Linda Herbert and Major Roberta Baynes, and was told by them that Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization, “had activated the CAT” and that the two women “had been called down to man their positions.” [14]

Also after the second crash occurred, Lieutenant Colonel Karen Wagner and Major Sherry Sargent heard from the colonel in charge of them that “an emergency operations center was being set up in the basement,” according to Texas Monthly magazine. [15] And Lieutenant Colonel Isabelle Slifer recalled that at around 9:36 a.m., Lieutenant Colonel Reginald Jordan informed her and a few of her colleagues “that the Crisis Action Team had stood up.” [16]

The CAT, according to Rossow, is “an organization of subject matter experts from throughout the Army staff who assemble in times of emergency in a special area within the AOC”–the Army Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon. [17] Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, the Army’s deputy director of operations, readiness, and mobilization, described the CAT as “the place that people will migrate” to during an emergency. [18]

And yet, despite learning that the CAT had been activated and, therefore, that the situation must have been considered an emergency, ODCSPER personnel apparently still did not think they needed to interrupt the executive officers’ meeting to alert its participants to what had happened at the World Trade Center.

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