Crane employees recall Sept. 11, 2001 at Pentagon

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

CRANE ---- It was a day that made a person happy to be alive.

The sun was dazzling and the sky was crystal blue on Sept. 11, 2001 as 30 NSWC Crane employees sat in their Public Management Certificate (PMC) class in room 5E490 at the Pentagon Building. Almost one year later, on Sept. 5, 2002 the class gathered together in a room, once again. The weather was exactly the same, but the men and women in that room were probably changed forever.

They had come together at Crane's Club Lakeview Restaurant to share with the media their horrible experiences and intense feelings about that terrible day in which terrorists guided an airplane into the Pentagon, very close to the room in which they were having their class.

It was the second day of the course and was called Pentagon Day. At the beginning of the class at approximately 9:10 a.m., the speaker, Ms. Livingstone, announced that terrorists had attacked the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

"At that point," said Eric Moody from Bloomfield, "it dawned on me that we could be a 'targeted' area. Therefore, I said a short prayer as I often do, 'Dear God, please keep us safe!' "

Carl Jarvis a mechanical engineer at Crane who lives in Bloomington said he wasn't worried because he had noticed the tight security when they entered the building. He had noted that there were many checkpoints and guards; plus, there were special plates that popped up to seal parts of the building.

However, another student with the Crane group, Doris Richardson from Bedford, was concerned and said, "I know I wasn't the only one in that room who stopped to say a prayer. Mine went as it always does, 'Lord, not my will but Thine be done.' "

Shortly after that, just as Livingstone was finishing her talk, there was a large boom.

Jarvis said the boom sounded like thunder, but he knew it was such a nice day that it couldn't be thunder.

Richardson noted that the building shook, probably from the plane knocking out support columns. (Twenty minutes later, this led to the collapse of the corridor where the students were exiting.)

The room started filling with smoke immediately, and Livingstone, calmly but firmly stated, "We are under a terrorist attack, and we should leave the building immediately."

Jarvis thought he and another Crane employee, Frank Mitchell, were the last ones out of the room, but unknown to them, Craig Taylor, an electrical engineer from Bloomington, was still in the room. He had thought a bomb had hit, so had dived under a table.

When the group got out into the hall, they were met with intense heat and dense smoke. They described it as "being so dense you could touch it."

At first, Jarvis said he thought they would make it, but when the lights went out, he began to lose hope.

"I also got angry," noted Jarvis. "I'm a government employee, and I'm going to die in a government building. How fair is that?"

Taylor said it was difficult for him to breathe, and he was dizzy. He thought of his two-year old son and hoped he would live to see him grow up.

"But," he said with a grin, " I had a new silk suit on, so thought I would die pretty."

During those darkest minutes, there was complete darkness. Crouching, the group found that the smoke was just as bad close to the floor as when they were standing; plus, the floor was covered with broken glass and debris, which would have prevented them from crawling.

However, Richardson said when she crouched to the floor, she said another prayer.

"OK Lord, I have said I am prepared to die when the time comes, and if that is now I can accept that. Lord, please let me die by the smoke and not the fire."

Taylor said he tried putting his jacket over his head, and Richardson said she trying covering her nose with Kleenex, but nothing helped.

It was during this time of despair with the halls completely black and heat extremely intense that they met another hurdle. They came upon an eighteen-inch step where the structure beneath had given away.

Then it was like a miracle a voice in the distance said, "Grab a person in front of you and keep coming toward my voice."

However, Moody said he felt despair, because there was no one in front of him to grab.

As for Taylor, he said he was fortunate being behind Trent Frady. "I thought I had a better chance being behind such a big guy."

Following the voices that were telling them to continue, the group made it out of the fiery inferno.

How did the seven or eight minutes change the lives of those 30 people from Crane who were in the Pentagon on 9/11?

Most of the survivors say they treasure each day and realize how precious life is.

Taylor says his chest still bothers him and he has nightmares. To help with the experience, he saw a counselor five or six times.

Moody noted, "I think I was spared for a reason and try to find that reason and live each day to the fullest."

As for Crane, public affairs officer Sue Webster reported that Crane has answered 5,669 requests from the fleet since 9/11, and the Crane work force has made numerous trips to provide much needed on site support to the fighting forces.

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