Fort Myer Military Community Fire Department
Three civilians from the Fort Myer Military Community Fire Department were manning the Pentagon Heliport Fire Station on Sept. 11, 2001. Inside the fire station, Alan Wallace, Mark Skipper, and Dennis Young watched the television coverage of the World Trade Center attacks until Fort Myer Fire Chief Charlie Campbell telephoned and warned them to stay alert as Washington, D.C., could be a target.
Skipper and Wallace went outside to check on the new crash truck equipped with the special chemical foam used in fighting jet fuel fires. The two men stood next to the truck discussing the New York attacks when Wallace glanced up and saw the airplane. He yelled to Skipper to run for cover. Diving under a nearby vehicle, Wallace felt the blast and the explosion's enormous heat and pressure as Flight 77 smashed into the Pentagon, just 20 feet from the corner of the fire station. Skipper heard a tremendous crash and saw the orange glow of a huge fireball bursting from the blast site and rising above the building.
As flames engulfed the building, Wallace jumped into the crash truck and started the engine, but it would not budge-the back end was ablaze and belching smoke. He radioed the fire department headquarters at Fort Myer that an airliner had hit the west side of the Pentagon, probably providing the first report of the exact crash location.
That radio call, from the inside of the burning truck, allowed Fort Myer crews to arrive around 9:42, minutes after the crash. As Wallace and Skipper salvaged what remained of their equipment and gear and Young emerged from the partially collapsed station house unharmed, they heard cries for help coming from inside the building and they ran towards the flaming building.