Judy Rothschadl interviews Gary Gulick of the Arlington (Va.) Fire Department during this fire and rescue work following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon. --Courtesy Photo
In outline, her story, as told in 'Tyndall Native Relives 9/11,' on September 11, 2003 (we may safely assume that Tyndall is near Yankton in South Dakota,) could serve as plot for a Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musical.
[Those South Dakotan's can be pills sometimes. The original article was taken down and even query nulled by robots.txt at archive.org, which makes me wonder what they have to hide. But I put up a badly paragraphed copy at google.docs. So, ha, ha! Sue me! Get in line!]
Two months into a new job as a producer of programming for the
Fire and Emergency Training Network, she was working a scheduled shoot in Baltimore when news of the events in New York and Arlington reached her and her colleagues, a technical adviser and a videographer, both of whom were men with professional firefighting backgrounds. They jumped in their van and raced down to Arlington. When traffic got bad, they swung onto the verge and followed a pickup-truck full of responders.
The men somehow "arraigned" permission from the command unit to get onto the Pentagon grounds, and Rothschadl went into a live report over the satellite network. She says,
"In a way, this was my network debut. I was giving them the play-by-play of what I was seeing. Not only was I the anchor there, but law enforcement was also asking me questions," she said.I'm sure such naiveté would have been charming on any day other than 9-11, where her lack of critical judgment and experience served some other master than public information. For instance,
"The networks didn't have access at all. The media got staged a half-mile away, and I was 50 yards away. People were walking by with medical supplies, and there was a lot of military personnel. There was a nozzle on top of the crash truck, spraying water into the impact areas."
"During her video shooting, Rothschadl noticed a piece of metal against the side of the Pentagon. 'It was part of the plane, and the metal was shiny silver with the red letter "C." It was obvious that it was an American plane' she said."But even guilelessness can have its rewards, such as,
"One thing that struck me as I was videotaping all of that is that there was a lot of medical personnel standing and waiting, but there was never anybody to attend to," she said. "My experience was that there would be hundreds of people injured and being transported to help. But not one single person was evacuated or transported.She and the two men were on site for three days, the only "media" allowed there during that time. She saw Bush, and interviewed Rumsfeld and Sen Tom Daschel:
"We found out later that anybody who needed medical assistance got it within the first half-hour or 45 minutes of impact. There was nobody after that.
Meanwhile, only unidentifiable objects of metal and glass were scattered over the Pentagon lawn, Rothschadl said. The fire engine used for protecting the Pentagon was incinerated.
"There weren't seats or luggage or things you find in a plane. There was nothing left -- it was obliterated or fireballed," she said. "And there was a foot of water on the lawn. We are running around in the water, not even thinking of the jet fuel in the water. We were just doing our job."
"I stopped Sen. Daschle and told him I was from South Dakota," she said. "He looked surprised and asked, 'My dear, what are you doing here?"She toured the interior of the building, but didn't accompany one of the men who was taken up in a ladder bucket to video from the roof. She was aware of her privileged perch--to a degree--saying
"I stuck around the command post. We knew the importance of the phrase, 'We are here on behalf of the Arlington Fire Department.'"but she lacked the self-awareness to ask, "Why me?" Instead, she rationalized
"You don't know why things happen the way they do, but I always believe things happen for a reason."Not surprisingly, she sounds more grown up four years later, and learns the power of words:
"Rothschadl and her crew gained access to the Pentagon because of FETN's credibility and her intention to provide footage for emergency training and the FBI, not the general public. 'We also swore to absolute secrecy about what we saw,' she said"which she tightened up with,
"The FETN crew maintained respect, not showing any scenes which could contain bodies, she said."On the third and final night of their stay, the FETN crew wanted a shot from the press' vantage point a half-mile away.
"When I saw what we only would have had, that things would have been documented only from a half-mile away, it blew my mind. We captured details that are irreplaceable," Rothschadl said.I wish someone would come up with the unedited satellite network feed. That would blow my mind.
Does she know any better now after three more years of George Bush, what she didn't know back then, about life if not firefighting? Perhaps not yet, for
Rothschadl said she has been disturbed by the large percentage of Americans who don't believe in 9/11 or what has been presented so far.Well, so much for credibility and good intentions.
"One of the things I have found really upsetting during the last couple of years are the conspiracy theorists who are questioning that a plane ever hit the Pentagon," she said. "There were images on the lawn of plane windows, and against the side of the building was the definite red 'C' of the word 'American' from the airplane.
"It's tremendously disturbing. I don't know where they think the passengers went from the airplane that day," she added.
Her footage was bought by The Learning Channel and has help debunk the myths of conspiracies, she said. "It furthered the truth. It was a relief to know the rest of the world at least was viewing the truths," she said.
Perhaps the passengers, if there were passengers, went wherever her 41-year-old technical director went. Chris DeWolf, died in a "line-of-duty death" in January 2004. He was killed at 7:14 am, in a single motor vehicle accident during a snowstorm in Portsmouth while reporting for an early call-in to work. Investigators hadn't ruled on a cause of the crash, with police asking anyone who saw his black Dodge Durango with Maine license plates go off I-95 to call them at (603) 679-3333.
More than 1,200 persons attended his funeral, including Rothschadl, who started a job with the new Homeland Security network soon after.
DeWolf may be a window through which we can see a future that he'll miss. He authored something for FETN called New Threats Command New Training
"New FETN training materials are being prepared currently that address the new threats in this post-9/11 age. Some of this material is composed of material that may not be the typical, traditional firefighter or rescue training we are accustomed to. Regardless, we need to embrace this training, accept it willingly and digest it.I don't know what he's talking about by, "new procedures and new equipment," but I don't like the sound of it one bit. Perhaps the first responders have been "sworn to absolute secrecy" about it, like he was sworn to absolute secrecy about what he saw at the Pentagon on 9-11. Keeping secrets, or at least keeping quiet, was once a sound career choice. Now, I think, silence equals death.
"We will be responding to new threats, and this information is critical for us to successfully complete our mission. Our safety and that of our citizens depends on our ability to be good students and to quickly implement the lessons learned into our daily operations. I hope that you will continue to work hard in your preparations for response as a homeland security defender, recognizing that new hazards, new procedures and new equipment will all be introduced to us this year. We need to absorb this information and work toward implementing these items in an efficient, pragmatic and practical manner so we can increase the safety of our citizens.
"We are living in historic times and future generations depend upon our success as firefighters, rescuers and as homeland security defenders. Study hard and work safely!"
So to Jude Rothschadl I'd say, you don't know why things happen the way they do, but I too, always believe things happen for a reason. A just reason.