Remembering 9/11: Portland FBI Special Agent Damian

On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Portland FBI Special Agent Damian describes how he responded to events. At the time he was on the SWAT team at the Washington Field Office.

Video Transcript

Hello, my name is Damian. I’ve been a special agent with the FBI for about 25 years.

So, in September of 2001, I had about four or five years in the Bureau. I was a member of the Washington Field Office, WFO SWAT team.  Our team week was scheduled to begin Sunday, September 9th. We had a bunch of guys that were former Navy Seals, and they arranged for us to train.

After we ran for an hour or so, we went to get critiqued, and they had this big control room. The control room had a huge bay of TV’s, the old big TV’s. There were six on the top and six on the bottom.

When all of a sudden, special news reports flashed, indicating that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City.

At the time the news reporting was that it was a small plane that had hit. Then the video started rolling, and we saw this… what appeared to be a big airplane, commercial airliner hit. But, still, it was being reported as a small plane, so there was some confusion there initially, and the next thing you know the second plane hit.

At the time, we had pagers but not cell phones, and the pagers started going off. I remember getting a text that said “2 space 601 space 4 space 911.” And, you know I didn’t know what the hell that meant. And then someone figured out that meant “go to 601 4th street” which is where WFO was. 911 meaning go right away.

I remember our team leader saying “two minutes to get your stuff. We’re going. We’ve got to get back to WFO ASAP…” which was about 150 miles from where we were located.

Once we got to Springfield, which is where the beltway 495 goes around Washington, D.C. and 95 becomes 395 heading to DC – about 15 miles to the Pentagon there– we started seeing that smoke. And, the authorities had completely shut down 395. It’s a four lane highway in either direction not a sole on it. We saw some people walking in the middle of the lane, southbound on 395, seemingly from their offices in DC, walking home because Metro was shut down. We were literally the only people heading northbound on 395, and as we got closer that smoke tower got higher and higher, and you could look down on it.

You could look down, and it was really on flames, and you could see some fire departments arriving on scene. This is about noontime, or so. A couple hours after the plane hits. And, it was just a surreal experience, something I will never forget. I was so in awe of the Pentagon growing up, just being in DC. To see it on fire was just a punch to the gut that morning.

Our objective was to get to WFO and to shut all the streets down around the four blocks of WFO at 601 Fourth Street to any traffic whatsoever because there was a fear of either a land-based attack or a secondary attack or something like that.

So, it became our mission to essentially, as WFO SWAT, to secure that crime scene so we can initially do rescue and then later recovery of evidence recovery.

We were there for the next … I was there for 75 days in a row up until my first day off was Thanksgiving.

So, we were also there to provide security for evidence response teams and go in with them to the Pentagon. I specifically remember the smell of that JP4 fuel. You know, how that horrific smell of the melting plastic.

I should mention, last thing, I am holding in my hands… The Pentagon was on fire for, for awhile. I would say for four or five days. It would often flare up and then die down. Once it was put out it and once it was sort of deemed safe, I believe it was the Arlington County Fire Department unfurled a massive flag. This was really to greet President Bush that came and shoot everyone’s hands. He shook my hand, and it was really sort of an awe inspiring day when that fire was out and recovery efforts were completed and we hung this flag.

It’s kind of a neat picture that I’ve always had at my desk and always will have will always have ever since. It reminds me of those events that occurred that day. That’s my 9/11 story.



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