I was enjoying a beautiful sunny morning as I performed my duties on the airfield at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as a Flight Operations Loadmaster for America West Airlines on September 11, 2001.
I was astounded to hear from my co-workers at the gate and boarding area that an aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Center on this sunny, bright, cloudless day. However, I went about my duties, dispatching a fully loaded Boeing 757 aircraft to Las Vegas which carried 200 passengers and a full load of fuel.
Shortly after dispatching this aircraft, we learned that a second aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Center. We now realized our aviation system was under attack by terrorists. Word was received from our Phoenix Center to secure the gate area immediately upon the arrival of our next incoming flight from Columbus, and to deplane the passengers as soon as possible.
Suddenly, smoke was visible drifting across the airfield from an unknown source. We were quickly informed a third aircraft had flown into the nearby Pentagon. Our Boeing 757 aircraft crew which I had dispatched to Las Vegas did not report back, as required, pertinent information as to take-off times, souls on board and other required flight information. After not hearing back from this aircraft for nearly forty minutes, there was real concern that it may have been our aircraft which was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon. We did eventually hear from the flight crew who had been distracted after receiving FAA directives to immediately divert to a nearby airport in Kansas and land.
Our day at the airport ended when an emergency total evacuation of the airport was ordered by law enforcement officials. Airport employees, tenants and airline passengers
were ordered to immediately evacuate the airport on foot across the bridge to nearby Crystal City.
The evacuation was not orderly; there was panic and ensuing chaos. We were later advised there was fear a fourth plane ,which had been hijacked, was headed to Washington, D.C., to crash into the White House, the U.S. Capital Building, or into our airport. This was, of course, the aircraft which later was forced to the ground in Pennsylvania.