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America Under Attack: Eyewitness Discusses Pentagon Plane Crash

Aired September 11, 2001 - 13:46   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now to our correspondent at the Pentagon, Bob Franken, who is, I believe, at a safe distance there from what's been going on.

Bob, please bring us up to date.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are on the east side of the Pentagon, as can you see, Judy. And see, over my shoulder, that smoke continues to billow, smoke that is sometimes thick, sometimes a little dissipated. But we're talking about about 4 1/2 hours after a plane -- it's described as probably being a jumbo-jet-sided plane -- crashed into the Pentagon, at about 9:20 this morning.

We now want to show you what it looks like on the west side. This is video that was shot by Vito Magiola (ph), who is an assignment editor and producer for CNN. He was able to get video. You can see that firefighters there are fighting in an area, rings four, five, and six, on the west side of the Pentagon. Vito says that it was an area, in his estimation, that was about 30 yards wide and about 10 yards deep into the building. The firefighting was hampered, he says, because inside the building sprinklers, pipes, and other forms of hydrants were damaged.

There's an estimate that several hundred firefighters and emergency workers at the Pentagon. We're also told, of course, that there has been evacuation efforts throughout the day. We can see those. We do not have an estimate on the number of casualties. I can tell you that, from our vantage point, we have seen a constant parade of casualty units -- military casualty units, civilian ambulances, fire engines, and the like -- going to the Pentagon.

There have been casualties, but as we said, we don't have any sort of estimate about that now.

We do also have somebody to talk with us who was an eyewitness to the actual crash. He was watch from Arlington, Virginia, which is a suburb. His name is Tim Timmerman.

Mr. Timmerman, are you with us right now?

TIM TIMMERMAN, EYEWITNESS: I sure am.

FRANKEN: You are a pilot. Tell us what you saw. TIMMERMAN: I was looking out the window; I live on the 16th floor, overlooking the Pentagon, in a corner apartment, so I have quite a panorama. And being next to National Airport, I hear jets all the time, but this jet engine was way too loud. I looked out to the southwest, and it came right down 395, right over Colombia Pike, and as is went by the Sheraton Hotel, the pilot added power to the engines. I heard it pull up a little bit more, and then I lost it behind a building.

And then it came out, and I saw it hit right in front of -- it didn't appear to crash into the building; most of the energy was dissipated in hitting the ground, but I saw the nose break up, I saw the wings fly forward, and then the conflagration engulfed everything in flames. It was horrible.

FRANKEN: What can you tell us about the plane itself?

TIMMERMAN: It was a Boeing 757, American Airlines, no question.

FRANKEN: You say that it was a Boeing, and you say it was a 757 or 767?

TIMMERMAN: 7-5-7.

FRANKEN: 757, which, of course...

TIMMERMAN: American Airlines.

FRANKEN: American Airlines, one of the new generation of jets.

TIMMERMAN: Right. It was so close to me it was like looking out my window and looking at a helicopter. It was just right there.

FRANKEN: We were told that it was flying so low that it clipped off a couple of light poles as it was coming in.

TIMMERMAN: That might have happened behind the apartments that occluded my view.

And when it reappeared, it was right before impact, and like I said, it was right before impact, and I saw the airplane just disintegrate and blow up into a huge ball of flames.

FRANKEN: So there was a fireball that you saw?

TIMMERMAN: Absolutely. And the building shook, and it was quite a tremendous explosion.

FRANKEN: What did you see after that?

TIMMERMAN: Nothing but the flames. I sat here, and I took a few pictures out of my window, and I noticed the fire trucks and the responses was just wonderful. Fire trucks were there quickly. I saw the area; the building didn't look very damaged initially, but I do see now, looking out my window, there's quite a chunk in it. But I think the blessing here might have been that the airplane hit before it hit the building, it hit the ground, and a lot of energy might have gone that way. That's what it appeared like.

FRANKEN: There is, of course -- we heard some discussion about the fact that it could have been worse had it actually gone a little bit higher and gone into what is the called the ring, the center ring...

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN: This is a five-sided building.

TIMMERMAN: As you know, the rings are A, B, C, D, E. It is just across the E ring on the outside, and that's why I felt it didn't look as damaged as it could be. It looked like on the helipad, which is on that side.

FRANKEN: Did you see any people being removed, any injured being removed, that type of thing?

TIMMERMAN: No, sir. I am up about a quarter a mile -- it may be a little bit closer -- and at that point, I saw nothing like that.

FRANKEN: Tim Timmerman, thank you very much -- an eyewitness, Judy, to the crash.

We still have no idea about the number of casualties. We know that there is a gaping hole on the west side of the Pentagon. As you can see, the smoke continues to billow -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bob Franken.

To our audience, no surprise. Hospitals in the Washington area are dealing with casualties from the plane crash at the Pentagon. We were told a few hours ago there's a blood shortage in the Washington area, hospitals wanting to people to know if you are in a position to donate blood, it would very much be needed and appreciated.

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