The Ballistic missile Defense Organization (BMDO) is an offshoot of the Reagan-era “Star Wars” program. In 2001, new Defense Secretary Donald "General Star Wars" Rumsfeld took the helm in the bunker, and with his new plans for a space-based missile defense shield and whatnot, things looked up for the BMDO. In mid-2001, they moved from their offices in Crystal City, just a few blocks south of the Pentagon, to new venue at Federal Office Building 2, aka the Navy Annex, about the same distance east-southeast of the military’s nerve center. The move was just finishing up in early September, with Ballistic Missile Defense Organization people settling in just in time for 9/11. That morning at 9:37 am, a ballistic missile called AA77 took their new building's line towards the Pentagon in its final seconds, after encountering no organized defense, and exploded into Rummy's bunker and helping unleash the power surge that would achieve his plans for a "new American Century." Just ironic?
At least two of the most astute eyewitness accounts of the attack come from BMDO people at their new HQ:
- Albert Hemphill
Creds: A Ballistic Missile Defense Organization staff member
Location: the new BMDO office at the Navy Annex, “with two nice windows and a great view of the monuments, the Capitol and the Pentagon.”
Account: Apparently seeing the new office for the first time, at 9:37 he “stood peering out of the window looking at the Pentagon" by chance, and "as I stood there, I instinctively ducked at the extremely loud roar and whine of a jet engine spooling up. Immediately, the large silver cylinder of an aircraft appeared in my window, coming over my right shoulder as I faced the Westside of the Pentagon directly towards the heliport. The aircraft [...] seemed to come directly over the annex, as if it had been following Columbia Pike […] All in all, I probably only had the aircraft in my field of view for approximately 3 seconds.[...] He was slightly left wing down as he appeared in my line of sight, as if he'd just "jinked" to avoid something. As he crossed [Route 27] he appeared to level his wings, making a slight right wing slow adjustment as he impacted low on the Westside of the building to the right of the helo tower and fire vehicle around corridor 5."
Notes: his account is a bit suspicious: He just happened to be looking that way at that moment and then saw the whole thing in incredible detail like fellow-BMDOer Morin did. His line "I could feel the concussion and felt the shockwave of the blast impact the window of the Annex, knocking me against the desk" is a little funny. That's a pretty amazing window. We'll take his story with a grain of salt...
(source: e-mail by Albert Hemphill, TML September 2001 archive, lists.travellerrpg.com, 9/12/01. Found via Penny Schoner)
- Terry Morin: The astute witness
Location: mid-south side of Navy Annex/Federal office Building 2. More precisely, "approximately 10 steps out from between Wings 4 and 5, I was making a gentle right turn towards the security check-in building just above Wing 4"
Account: "I started to hear an increasingly loud rumbling behind me and to my left. As I turned to my left, I immediately realized the noise was bouncing off the 4-story structure that was Wing 5. One to two seconds later the airliner came into my field of view. [...] The aircraft was essentially right over the top of me and the outer portion of the FOB (flight path parallel the outer edge of the FOB). [...] Within seconds the plane cleared the 8th Wing of BMDO and was heading directly towards the Pentagon. [...] As the aircraft approached the Pentagon, I saw a minor flash (later found out that the aircraft had sheared off a portion of a highway light pole down on Hwy 110). [...] I believe I saw the tail dip slightly to the right indicating a minor turn in that direction. The tail was barely visible when I saw the flash and subsequent fireball rise "
Notes: "As the aircraft flew ever lower I started to lose sight of the actual airframe as a row of trees to the Northeast of the FOB blocked my view." See map - treeline blocking his full view in his blue. A straight path along the south edge of the annex would require only the slightest turn, a tad to the left actually, to hit the building properly and clip all five poles, passing just south of the Citgo station on the way. The map shows the closest straight line to his account, and it's damn close. Even from a distance he sees the flash of a light pole popping; not an explicit up-close view, but this is what he felt made sense and he's probably right.
(source: Eric Bart.)