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Pentagon Staff Receive Medals of Valor

Aired March 5, 2002 - 11:39   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.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Think it's about time to turn to a more uplifting topic this morning, and we've got just the one for you. The Pentagon today is going to present members of the building staff with the Medal of Valor for their actions back on September 11th.

Now, three of those recipients are with us this morning, and hopefully they will share some of their stories. Joining us is Steve Carter. Steve is there in the center. And we have Issac Hoopii, you see him over there on the right, and we've got Ralph Newton with us, there on the left.

I think I've got all the names correct. And they are joining us, as you see there, from the Pentagon briefing room. Gentlemen, thank you very much for taking time for us today, on a day which has got to be a very -- very special day for the three of you.

Steve, let me start with you. What is exactly was it you were doing on September 11th.

STEVE CARTER, MEDAL OF VALOR RECIPIENT: I was in the building operations command center. We were reviewing the events that were happening up in New York. Basically, just watching the situation.

HARRIS: Now is that...

CARTER: It was...

HARRIS: I'm sorry go ahead.

CARTER: That's okay.

HARRIS: Now, as I understand it, you were there in the building when the plane hit?

CARTER: We were in the building when the plane hit. We felt a jolt there and that's where all of the alarms came in.

HARRIS: And you -- now, your position, what was your official position at the time? You basically were one of the real estate guys there who understands everything about the building, correct?

CARTER: I was the assistant building manager the day the plane hit and my duties was the operation and maintenance of the Pentagon. HARRIS: And that was a very special duty to have that day, because, with that in mind, in your head, you pretty much knew how to get around that building. And, as I understand it, one of the reasons you are being honored today is because you were the one who got quite a bit of the rescue help that actually got people out of that building.

You actually were able to get them through that -- all that smoke that blinded everyone, correct?

CARTER: One of the items I was doing was bringing teams to areas that were helping get people out and also identifying areas where we were receiving phone calls from people that were in areas hard to get out of.

HARRIS: Yes. Issac, as I -- from the story I hear about you, you weren't even there on the grounds when it happened, correct?

ISAAC HOOPII, MEDAL OF VALOR RECIPIENT: Correct, sir.

HARRIS: But, it didn't take you long. Because, in fact, somebody told me that you -- you blew out the transmission on your vehicle getting back to the Pentagon?

HOOPII: Yes, I did.

HARRIS: So you were in a bit of a hurry. What happened when you got there?

HOOPII: Once I parked, I guess, at the Mall entrance, plaza, jumped out of my vehicle and ran towards the smoke, the fire, and the disaster area.

HARRIS: And you were already outside and safe, but you ran inside any way?

HOOPII: Correct, sir.

HARRIS: Why?

HOOPII: The only thing that went through my mind is try to help people. They have families, loved ones, husbands, wives, and all I wanted to do is just help people.

HARRIS: And as I understand it, you helped quite a bit. Do you know how many lives you saved that day?

HOOPII: Yes, they gave me an estimate, yes.

HARRIS: Well, give it to us, please.

HOOPII: Sure. I think I carried out about eight people, to include seven other people that followed my voice to safety.

HARRIS: And you never once thought about your own life while you were doing that? HOOPII: Correct.

HARRIS: You know, there are some of us who wish we could do that sort of thing. Where do you think that came from?

HOOPII: Well, I'm just human like everybody else. I think anyone else in my shoes would have done the same. Of course, you really don't think about it, you just react. Especially you see a big plane, fire in the Pentagon. I mean, you kick -- your adrenaline just kicks in...

HARRIS: Yes.

HOOPII: ...and just try to save people.

HARRIS: Yes, obviously, and that's exactly what you did.

Ralph, how about you? What's your story? I didn't get a chance to hear much about what happened with you. What were you doing that day?

RALPH NEWTON, MEDAL OF VALOR RECIPIENT: Well, I was in my office, in the director's office for real estate facilities. I actually was carrying on a meeting when we heard about the World Trade Center plane attack, and, following that event, we spoke with the chief of our security organization, Chief Jester (ph), checking on the threat conditions, suspecting that maybe there might be some threat against the Pentagon.

We had no -- no obvious threat at that point in time. So we continued to monitor it. And then, of course, once the plane struck, I actually was sitting at my desk, and looked up, out my window, across the courtyard. Saw the -- the flames coming up over the building. And of course, soon after that, the building began to be evacuated.

HARRIS: OK. And you stayed there anyway.

NEWTON: Well, what I did was, I reestablished a communications center for Real Estate Facilities and tried to make contact up the leadership chain, as well as with all the divisions that provide support and services in the Pentagon, so that we could evaluate the damages. Find out if we could get a handle on the number of possible casualties, as well as begin to bring in the necessary services in response to the scene.

HARRIS: Well, you three gentlemen are some very special people, and we offer our congratulations along with the Pentagon and our thanks as well for what you did. It is amazing, and I've got to think it must be nice to go to bed at night knowing you actually helped save lives.

That is something that many of us dream and wish that we could do, and you three actually did it. We offer you our congratulations as well.

HOOPII: Thank you.

NEWTON: Thank you.

CARTER: Thank you.

HARRIS: Enjoy yourselves this afternoon, when you go up there and accept your Medals of Honor (sic). We'll be watching, as a matter of fact, right here on CNN. So we'll have live coverage of that. Good luck to all of you. Thank you very much for your time today. Good luck.

CARTER: Thank you.

NEWTON: Thank you.

HOOPII: Thank you.

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