Pentagon Strike Alleged Witness Account: Elaine McCusker

Laura

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http://depts.washington.edu/uweek/archives/2001.10.OCT_04/_article9.html


'It can't be real'

Editor's note: At least one UW employee, Elaine McCusker, who works in the Office of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C., witnessed the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. Here is her account of that frightening experience:

"I was heading to a 10 a.m. meeting. It was a beautiful day and I had the car windows down. My radio was on and they broke in to report the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. I felt behind the curve because I hadn't known about the first plane. I hadn't watched TV that morning and had no idea about the level of destruction. Then the President came on the air saying that we had been the subject of an apparent terrorist attack.

Traffic is normally slow right around the Pentagon as the road winds and we line up to cross the 14th Street bridge heading into the District of Columbia. I don't know what made me look up, but I did and I saw a very low-flying American Airlines plane that seemed to be accelerating. My first thought was just 'No, no, no, no,' because it was obvious the plane was not heading to nearby Reagan National Airport. It was going to crash.

At that point time just sort of stopped. In retrospect I'm amazed there were no car crashes as those on the road with me just stopped and helplessly watched the plane crash. I pulled out my cell phone to call 911. I heard sirens and, not sure what to do, I called my mom who works at a newspaper in Pekin, Ill. She told me to calm down and keep driving. Fire trucks started to appear so I and others on the road tried to move out of the way.

Operating mostly on autopilot, I drove to the office, keeping an eye and ear on the sky. I was positive another plane was coming any minute. Once you've seen the unimaginable, you believe anything can happen. They were already evacuating my building when I got there but I came up to the office and turned on the TV. The phone was ringing when I walked in and continued ringing. I was glad I was there so I could let people know we (she and other staff members Sarah Spreitzer and Barbara Perry) were all right.

As I thought about it, aside from the incomprehensible feeling of the attack itself, the most shocking thing to me was that I could see the plane was a regular sized, American Airlines flight. Like the rest of the country, I was not aware from the early reports that hijacked domestic airliners were involved. As I kept replaying the scene in my mind, all I could think was, 'This is all very wrong. It can't be real.'

I stayed in the office until 1 p.m. The building was closed, but the city was in gridlock and I had to pass the Pentagon to get home so it seemed better to stay. On my way home I saw an Army attack helicopter in the air over a nearly deserted capitol beltway. It seemed surreal yet reassuring.

I deal with defense issues, among other things, for the University and I'm currently Co-Chair of the Coalition for National Security Research, so I know a lot of people who work in the Pentagon or meet there for business. I spent the next 24 hours, as so many people did, trying to track down all the people I knew who may have been in the area.

I, like most of the country, found comfort in the national day of remembrance and mourning, Sept. 14. I have to say that Americans' reaction to this attack has been as positive and strong as the attack was terrifying. Still, as I passed the Pentagon at exactly the same time a week later, I was struck by an eerie and very sad feeling."
 

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Elaine McCusker: co-chair of the Coalition for National Security Research (http://ora.ra.cwru.edu/cwru_research_newsletter_may_2002.htm)
(http://www.geocities.com/cnsrweb/)

Committee on Armed Services (http://www.leadershipdirectories.com/cybInfo/Elaine_McCusker_Committee_on_Armed_Services.html)

Sounds really reliable...
 

thorbiorn

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Below I have divided the report of Elaine McCusker into sections with a heading for each and followed by some comments in between.
The What Really Happened section is underlined.

[Introduction by the editor of University Week]
'It can't be real'
Editor's note: At least one UW employee, Elaine McCusker, who works in the Office of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C., witnessed the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. Here is her account of that frightening experience:
So she is the only employee writing and getting a report published on the Pentagon strike. It is assumed that what was seen was the American Airlines Flight 77, her account of the plane is not precise enough to verify it, she mentions an American Airlines plane. The editor makes sure we get the right picture.

[Elaine's introduction]
"I was heading to a 10 a.m. meeting. It was a beautiful day and I had the car windows down. My radio was on and they broke in to report the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. I felt behind the curve because I hadn't known about the first plane. I hadn't watched TV that morning and had no idea about the level of destruction. Then the President came on the air saying that we had been the subject of an apparent terrorist attack.
The President came on at 9:29 a.m. according to the timeline in "911 The Ultimate Truth" by Laura Knight-Jadczyk, it is page 208 in my version. As Bush left at 9:30 a.m. her observation could be anytime after that.

[Spotting the plane]
Traffic is normally slow right around the Pentagon as the road winds and we line up to cross the 14th Street bridge heading into the District of Columbia. I don't know what made me look up, but I did and I saw a very low-flying American Airlines plane that seemed to be accelerating. My first thought was just 'No, no, no, no,' because it was obvious the plane was not heading to nearby Reagan National Airport. It was going to crash.
She claims to have seen an American Airlines plane and later on she adds "regular sized". Terrance Kean to the Washington Post is alleged to have said: "I saw this very, very large passenger jet" but he did not specify the American Airlines.

How to distinguish a passenger from a transport plane or fighter jet? One common way is to look if there are many windows. If there appear to be a lot of windows, then it is a big passenger jet if it is just few a small one. American Airlines have a tail logo, if there is an AA it is inferred that it is an American Airlines.

It would be possible to create a type of plane where there is an AA and a lot of small painted windows. If the plane is furnished with small size painted windows one can fit many small windows next to each other making it appear as if the "passenger jet" has more windows than would a similar size real one. In other words one can create an optical illusion of it being a very large passenger plane.

If one on the basis of her observation claims it was THE Flight 77, then it is jumping to a conclusion.

She mentions no sound related to the plane. Was she so far away? She says it seemed to be accelerating. On what basis did she conclude that?

Below is an illustration borrowed from The Whashington Post, it has a map in the lower left where one finds the 14th Street bridge and the Pentagon nearby. It is hard to pinpoint from her description exactly where she was at time of the sighting. But one sees the winding of 395 so maybe it was there.
pentagon_strike_0911.gif


[The crash scene]
At that point time just sort of stopped. In retrospect I'm amazed there were no car crashes as those on the road with me just stopped and helplessly watched the plane crash. I pulled out my cell phone to call 911. I heard sirens and, not sure what to do, I called my mom who works at a newspaper in Pekin, Ill. She told me to calm down and keep driving. Fire trucks started to appear so I and others on the road tried to move out of the way.
Apparently she did not see HOW the crash occurred, or she does not wish to report it. When she writes "time just sort of stopped", is that to say she entered a light shock state?

[After the crash]
Operating mostly on autopilot, I drove to the office, keeping an eye and ear on the sky. I was positive another plane was coming any minute. Once you've seen the unimaginable, you believe anything can happen. They were already evacuating my building when I got there but I came up to the office and turned on the TV. The phone was ringing when I walked in and continued ringing. I was glad I was there so I could let people know we (she and other staff members Sarah Spreitzer and Barbara Perry) were all right.
Did she travel with Sarah Spreitzer and Barbara Perry, were they driving separately in the affected area, or was she head of the office? Anyway it is a minor issue.

[Reflections on the strike]
As I thought about it, aside from the incomprehensible feeling of the attack itself, the most shocking thing to me was that I could see the plane was a regular sized, American Airlines flight. Like the rest of the country, I was not aware from the early reports that hijacked domestic airliners were involved. As I kept replaying the scene in my mind, all I could think was, 'This is all very wrong. It can't be real.'
Again even if it appeared as "a regular sized, American Airlines flight" does not mean it was. Is her gut feeling telling her that it wasn't: "As I kept replaying the scene in my mind, all I could think was, 'This is all very wrong. It can't be real."?

[Going back home]
I stayed in the office until 1 p.m. The building was closed, but the city was in gridlock and I had to pass the Pentagon to get home so it seemed better to stay. On my way home I saw an Army attack helicopter in the air over a nearly deserted capitol beltway. It seemed surreal yet reassuring.
I deal with defense issues, among other things, for the University and I'm currently Co-Chair of the Coalition for National Security Research, so I know a lot of people who work in the Pentagon or meet there for business. I spent the next 24 hours, as so many people did, trying to track down all the people I knew who may have been in the area.
Elaine McCusker is involved with defence issues so this account has more politics in it. She is also speaking on behalf of the University and so it is not as informal an account as that of Tom Hovis or Christine Peterson. Her account is more like that of Steven Anderson.

[Concluding remark]
I, like most of the country, found comfort in the national day of remembrance and mourning, Sept. 14. I have to say that Americans' reaction to this attack has been as positive and strong as the attack was terrifying. Still, as I passed the Pentagon at exactly the same time a week later, I was struck by an eerie and very sad feeling."
This account gives little information. Her description of the sequence of events leaves us with an idea that the crash must have happened right after 9:30 a.m. About the plane the quality of her observation is such that one can not decide if it was any flight number. The reader is supposed to believe it is Flight 77 as indicated by the editor and also herself indirectly although her gut feelings leaves us in doubt about what the real truth is.

thorbiorn
 
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