The Role of the Army Reserve in the 11 September Attacks: The Pentagon
JACKSON: My office was Information Management, which was [Room] 1D520
INTERVIEWER: Where were you located in relation to the attack?
JACKSON: I was located in the D Ring. Where the attack took place was the E ring, which was less than 100 feet away from where the incident actually took place...
INTERVIEWER: Did you have any indication of an impending attack on the Pentagon?
INTERVIEWER: Please describe what happened upon the impact of the aircraft.
JACKSON: We were sitting at our desks and we were...looking at the computer. We were looking at the stuff that was on the Internet in reference to the attack in New York. I'd say less than five minutes after that [there] was this loud explosion. It happened so quickly. The only thing that we actually saw was fire...It's like a fireball that just...came through. It just throw us all over the place...All I knew was that some heat was over my head. I didn't realize that my hair was on fire until a co-worker of mine, whose name is Stuart Fluke, said, "J.J.,...your hair is on fire." So he took off his shirt, and he put the fire out on my hair. My hands had already gotten burned from the flames just coming my way...Wherever we ended up at, there was a baby, and they were pulling the baby out. I was trying to get across the rubble...and stuff in there. As I was going out, I said to one of my co-workers..."I can't hardly breathe." He was saying that he couldn't hardly breathe either because the smoke was so thick. It was really, really, really thick. It...was really kind of hard to breathe.
We managed to walk out... it was looking like there wasn't any way out of there. But what we noticed is there was a...large hole...in the far right corner. Some of our co-workers there [said] ..."Come this way. Come this way." So we managed to cross some of that debris and to climb over that way...As I [was] walking out, there was a co=worker of mine, Racquel Kelly...and I guess she spotted me, because she was down low...she was stuck up under all that debris and all that rubble and stuff. It was stacked up on top of her. She was saying, "J.J., please help me." And so what I did was I pulled her out. I managed to pull her out, because it was really stacked up on her and it was really heavy. Once I pulled her out she was able to walk some on her own. We had to climb up all this other debris [to]... where the hole was in the wall. We had to actually climb up a lot of stuff in order . . . to get out of there. But we managed to get out. It was really stacked up really high.
INTERVIEWER: Did that put you on the roof of the building or just into another section?
JACKSON: It was right where the actual impact took place . . . where the helicopter was. . . .
INTERVIEWER: Now you said you were blown down the hall. Did the force of the blast
blow you there?
JACKSON: Yes, it just threw us all over . . . . It threw us . . . further down into another ring.
There was no way that we were still in our office, because in our office were computers,
computer systems, PCUs. . . . You couldn't see that. There was nothing there anymore. The only
thing you could see was debris. . . . I think the second floor caved in because I know something
fell on my back. So, that's how I got the burns on my back . . . .
INTERVIEWER: Do you have any idea how long it took you from the time of impact until you got out of the building?
JACKSON: Well, to me, it seemed like it was . . . more than twenty minutes, but I know for a
fact it had to have been less than five minutes.
INTERVIEWER: Once you got out of the building, what happened next?
JACKSON: Well, when I . . . got out of the building, I was pretty blown away. I was
hysterical. . . . I was kind of out of control because my hands felt like they were still on fire here.
My whole body felt like it was still on fire. So, I was doing a lot of crying. . . . They guided us
out to the edge . . . of the grass because everybody was coming. . . . So they had us lay down, and
they were pouring some cold water on it to cool it off, because it was just that bad. . . . I'd say we
had to wait there for about twenty minutes because the traffic was so bad. It was all backed up,
and the ambulances were trying to get in. So it took awhile for the ambulances to get in. So
what they did was they tried to pick out . . . the victims that were the most . . . wounded. . . . I
know we waited for about twenty minutes. And in between that, they came over and tried to
console us. The chaplain came over and talked to us, read verses out of the Bible . . . to keep us
in high spirits, because it was -- it was just horrifying.
INTERVIEWER: Once you were put in the ambulance, where did you go? Where did they take you?
JACKSON: To the Arlington Hospital. [She talked of her hospital treatment.] I was in the
emergency room briefly, but . . . because I had smoke . . . they had to send me to the ICU
[intensive care unit]. They gave me that . . . ventilator . . . to clear out my lungs. . . . They gave
me two treatments of that because I think I had a lot of smoke at the time. I think I stayed in the ICU for about three days. I think I stayed in there until Thursday.
[On Friday, 14 September, she was transferred to Walter Reed Hospital.]
When it . . . [the plane crash] first happened, I actually didn't believe it. Actually, the honest truth, I thought I was dreaming it. So it took a few minutes for it to actually set in and I
actually felt my legs moving. That's when I actually felt that it was really happening. What
came across my mind . . . (because I'm also in the military, I'm in the Army Reserve) . . . were
two things. One, I know I had two kids and I was going to get out. And the other thing that
crossed my mind is the military always taught us never give up. So those were the two things
that strengthened me to get out of there.
INTERVIEWER: You are in the Army Reserve?
JACKSON: Yeah. [She is an E-5 (sergeant) in the 55th Maintenance and Materials Center
located on Fort Belvoir where she works in supply and automation.]
INTERVIEWER: Did anything else come out of all your training that you think helped you?
JACKSON: Yeah, I think the overall training . . . of how they . . . instilled in us . . . how to
fight and not to give up. I think all that leadership training . . . kicked in. . . . It made me want to
fight. I said, "I'm not going to die in here. I'm getting out of here." That's what I said.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember any sounds from the impact of the plane?
JACKSON: That was the first thing. It sounded like a bomb. I thought it was a bomb, because,
I guess, maybe it was because the impact was so close and . . . it hit so fast. It's like you didn't
know what hit you. When it hit, it just threw us. It just threw us all over the room. And right
after that, at first, it was fire. Then, after that it was a big thick patch of smoke. That's all you
saw was smoke, and everything you touched was . . . like fire. Everything you touched, and stuff
was falling all over me. It was really, really, really, really terrible. . . . There were seven of us.
From what I know one of the guys didn't make it that was in the office. . . . He was nowhere to
[She discussed her efforts to pull a co-worker out of the building.]….Well, the only thing
I thought was striking is that I was able, as a soldier, . . . to pull her out and to help her.
INTERVIEWER: You went into military mode?
JACKSON: Yeah, I went into military mode, because she weighs way more than I do….But I
was able. . . even though my hands were all burned up, badly burned, . . . to pull her out.
INTERVIEWER: What about the pain? Were you numb?
JACKSON: I didn't feel the pain . . . especially because she was crying for my help. There was
no way I would have left her there. There's no way.
INTERVIEWER: How long did it take before the pain hit you?
JACKSON: It was like, all before, I was . . . numb or something. I guess it really. . . hadn't hit
me yet. But once I stepped . . . through that hole, that's when it hit me. Everything just hit . . . .
Janice A. Jackson, interview by Frank Shirer and Beau Whittington, 19 September 2001, DA-CMH