Twenty years after 9/11: In hell camp

FThe war on terror began for Ted Anderson on September 12, 2001. At one o’clock in the morning the phone rang. The lieutenant colonel thought he had just dozed off for a moment. In fact, he had slept for hours. “Ted, I can’t sleep. Let’s go to work, ”his boss told him. Anderson replied that he didn’t have a car. That is still in the parking lot of the Pentagon, which has been blocked by the police. “I’ll pick you up in twenty minutes,” said the Colonel and hung up. Anderson put on his uniform and waited outside his Alexandria apartment.

Majid Sattar

Political correspondent for North America based in Washington.

Anderson says he will never forget the short drive to Arlington. The night sky glowed orange over the Pentagon. The fire brigade was still in the process of putting out the fire. “We’ll never get in there,” he said to the Colonel. They came in. “On September 12th, 18,000 people showed up for work – in a burning building.” Anderson presses his lips together. Then he says: “You wanted to report to your combat station. We were at war. “

Anderson had left the Department of Defense the day before when the rescue operation had been declared a salvage operation. There was nothing left for him to do. When he got home he had a fit of tears. Then he collapsed on his couch, exhausted, and fell asleep. At the time, the lieutenant colonel worked in the office of the Army State Secretary, as a liaison officer to Congress.

“We have been attacked. I have to go”

When American Airlines Flight 77 was directed into the Pentagon, he was on the phone with his wife. In other words, he was actually on the phone with her and her schoolchildren at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where Anderson was stationed prior to his secondment to Washington. The teacher had just spoken to her class about the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. She said she knew someone in the capital who would certainly know what the government was going to do now. Then when the plane crashed into her husband’s workplace, in the neighboring corner of the Pentagon, she asked what the noise had been. Anderson replied, “We have been attacked. I have to go.”

Das Pentagon am 11. September

Das Pentagon am 11. September

Build: AP

The explosion and the subsequent blast felt as if the building had been torn from its foundation, recalls Anderson. The then 42-year-old soldier, who had been awarded the “Bronze Star” for his missions with the special forces of the army, took over command in his office. The people, many of them civilians who had never been attacked, were in shock. He yelled at them to run out. He himself ran forward, looked at the collapse site – and ran back inside with a comrade.

Both were able to save several injured people that day, although there had been a tangible conflict with the fire brigade in the meantime. An Arlington County firefighter held Anderson and evicted him from the burning building. “It got very ugly,” he says. He insulted him and had to be held back so as not to attack him. “For the fire brigade it was an accident site that had to be secured. For me it was a battlefield where you don’t leave your comrades behind. ”In the end, equipped with an oxygen bottle, he led a group of firefighters back into the building. Anderson was later awarded the Soldier’s Medal for heroism.

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