Remembering 9/11: Rural Bloomfield man was there at the Pentagon when the plane hit

Friday, September 9, 2011
Eric Moody

Many are remembering where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001.

As the 10th anniversary of the event dawns Sunday, rural Bloomfield resident Eric Moody doesn't have a problem remembering what he was doing that memorable day.

He was sitting in the Pentagon with 29 other co-workers from NSWC Crane base -- attending a Public Management Certificate (PMC-XIII) class conducted by IUPUI School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Onlookers gathered outside the Pentagon building after it was struck by a jet on Sept. 11, 2001. (Submitted photo)

This week-long course allowed for interaction with some of the U.S. Navy's top officials at the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and the Old Executive Office Building.

Moody, a 22-year Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Crane employee who works as a project manager in an anti-terrorism division, vividly recalls the events of that historic day.

"It affects me a little bit differently than it does others. I think everyone kind of knows where they were that day. I was there. You remember all of the little details that you remember when something like that happens," Moody said.

"When you see those pictures and see all of the devastation there that happened, it kind of reminds you how lucky you are ... I feel fortunate that I am still here."

Ironically, one of the projects Moody worked on before and since the attack, is an anti-terrorism force protection system for the Navy.

The first meeting of the day was scheduled for 9 a.m. with Under Secretary of the Navy Susan Livingstone.

The Crane group met in conference room 5E490 in the Pentagon, and the group was unaware of the events in New York City.

Livingstone began her talk telling the group about the attack.

Moody said it suddenly dawned on him that by sitting in the top military operations center in the country, the building they were in could be a targeted area.

He said a simple short prayer.

"Dear God, please keep us safe!"

Livingstone wrapped up her talk in short order and began a question-and-answer session.

The first question had been asked and Livingstone was in the middle of answering at approximately 9:35 a.m. when the plane hit.

"It was a very large blast ... a bunch of the ceiling tiles fell out from the suspended ceiling to the floor and the light fixture in the middle of the room came crashing down on the conference room table. Obviously as that hit, we were thinking how do we get out of here. Nobody got too upset or too excited. It was more of a matter of fact, we have to get out of here," he explained. "Our group managed to get out unscathed. There was some challenges on the way out."

The plane had crashed into the first three stories of the Pentagon between Corridors 4 and 5 and penetrated three layers deep.

"We were located on the fifth story, between Corridors 4 and 5, and were only one layer in from the outside of the building. Therefore, we were almost directly above -- not more than 50 feet away -- from the area of impact," Moody noted.

The group attempted to head down hallway E to the right only to discover the stairs had been demolished. Another stairwell was also blocked.

"We were forced to cover our mouths and noses with our jackets, shirt sleeves, or other available items to prevent smoke inhalation."

The Pentagon rubble is shown in the foreground and the U.S. Capitol in the background shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. (Submitted photo)

Moody said the group continued to make its way slowly down hallway E dodging fallen light fixtures and other debris.

"As we reached the next corridor (Corridor 4), we realized the lights were out. Because this inner passageway was completely filled with smoke, it was impossible to see anything. I was not familiar with the building and I had no idea where I was or which way to head. I realized I was breathing hard due to the adrenaline rush, and I was having difficulty breathing due to the smoke and extreme heat. This is the first time during the incident where I began to be concerned about whether or not I would make it out alive. There seemed to be silence -- just for an instant -- and at this point, I feared for my life."

Moody said several Pentagon security officials helped to direct the group toward the exit.

"There was one point where we had to get down and try and see underneath the smoke. There was black smoke all over the place," Moody said, "Finally, I began to see some light ahead, and I was able to see the security official who was guiding us. This man was an angel of God sent to lead us through the valley of the shadow of death to where there was light."

The group continued to rush down the next corridor that was lit, and quickly went down several sets of escalators to the ground level where they exited the building.

It took a couple of minutes to get outside, but "it seemed like forever," Moody recalled.

Once outside, the group watched as a section of the building burned and then headed back to their hotel on foot.

"God Almighty had His hand upon us," Moody said.

Sept. 11, 2011 Timeline

On Sept. 11, 2001, the world was shocked as thousands were killed in a horrifying series of terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Here is a breakdown of the events as they unfolded 10 years ago.

7:59 a.m. (ET)

76 passengers, 11 crew members and five Al Qaeda hijackers take off on American Airlines Flight 11 (Boston to Los Angeles). The flight will be hi-jacked around 8:14 a.m. and re-routed toward Manhattan.

8:14 a.m.

51 passengers, nine crew members, and five hijackers take off on another Los Angeles-bound United Airlines plane, Flight 175 from Boston. This flight will be hi-jacked around 8:45 a.m. and re-routed toward Manhattan.

8:19 a.m.

Aboard Flight 11, flight attendants Betty Ong and Madeline Amy Sweeney alert ground personnel of the hi-jacking.

8:20 a.m.

American Airlines Flight 77 takes off from Washington, D.C.

8:42 a.m.

United Airlines Flight 93 takes off from Newark, N.J.

8:38 a.m.

Air traffic control notifies the military air defense command of a hijacking.

8:43 a.m.

The FAA notified military authorities of a second hijacking

8:46 a.m.

Flight 11 crashes into the World Trade Center's North Tower, killing everyone on board and hundreds more within the tower.

8:55 a.m.

Flight 77 begins turning east, away from its intended course.

9:03 a.m.

Flight 175 crashes into the WTC's South Tower, killing everyone on board and hundreds more within the building.

9:37 a.m.

Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon, killing the 59 people on board and 125 others in the building.

9:42 a.m.

The FAA grounds all flights over or headed toward the United States.

All international flights headed for the U.S. are redirected to Canada. Transport Canada follows and closes down its airspace. Transport Canada take in diverted U.S.-bound international flights, launching the agency's "Operation Yellow Ribbon."

During the procedure, 38 planes will be diverted to Gander, N.L.

9:59 a.m.

The WTC South Tower collapses, killing approximately 600 people.

10:03 a.m.

Flight 93 crashes into a field in Somerset County, near Shanksville, Pa., killing all 40 people on board.

10:15 a.m.

The Pentagon E Ring (the outermost ring of offices) collapses.

10:28 a.m.

The WTC North Tower collapses, killing approximately 1,400 people.

10:43 a.m.

NAV Canada orders a grounding of all flights over Canada.

11:02 a.m.

Lower Manhattan is evacuated.

12:30 p.m.

14 survivors discovered in the WTC North Tower, in stairwell B.

12:28 p.m.

Canadian airspace is closed.

2:54 p.m.

A Korean Air flight lands in Whitehorse -- met by armed police -- after accidentally signaling a hijacking.

5:20 p.m.

7 World Trade Center (across the street from the twin towers) collapses.

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  • Eric,

    I appreciate your service protecting America. Thank God, you made it out safely!

    -- Posted by cow rancher on Sun, Sep 11, 2011, at 4:39 PM
  • My brother was in that same class that day. It was a frightening time.

    -- Posted by Lil' Hahn on Mon, Sep 12, 2011, at 8:37 AM
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