"(The plane) was flying fast and low and the Pentagon was the obvious target," said Fred Gaskins, who was driving to his job as a national editor at USA TODAY near the Pentagon when the plane passed about 150 feet overhead. "It was flying very smoothly and calmly, without any hint that anything was wrong." Bush vows retaliation for 'evil acts' 9-12-01 6:11am ET From wire and staff reports
So, what do you think the odds are a seventh USA Today employee was stuck in traffic along with his colleagues on this same stretch of highway at the exact same moment a 757 jet-plane flew over head and crashed into the Pentagon? And then, what are the odds Craig Ranke and Aldo Marquis (they of CIT, the Citizen Investigative Team, and the annotators of the above aerial photograph, which I use without permission,) would just happen to miss the reference, one of only two actually published in USA Today?
On Edit: Make it Eight.Peter Kopf, director of information technology at USA TODAY, was stalled in traffic about 9:30 a.m. when the jet hit the Pentagon, creating a “huge fireball.”
“People (on the highway) were freaking out,” he said. “People were turning around and driving the opposite way getting out of their cars, talking on cell phones, crying.” When the Pentagon was struck, Kopf was listening on his car radio to reports that a second hijacked jet had been crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. "We wanted to get the hell out of [the vicinity of the Pentagon,]" he said. "We felt a second one was imminent at the Pentagon." Bush vows retaliation for 'evil acts'
Now, what are the odds that out of seven professional journalists none of them would have had a camera along with them in the car---just in case a spot news item should present itself, you understand---leaving it to a skateboarder and a symphony orchestra manager to take the total of nine photographs taken in the opening moments of the attack?
Now, what do you think the odds are that when people find out Matt and Katie were in on it, this country will not get ripped apart? Ask
On edit: August 26. Damn. I should have remembered this one, even without having slept for two months, it is so distinctive. Always having been attributed to Mary Ann Owens, although I can't find any documentation for it, I recall it was said to have been taken with a "box" camera, which sounds plausible, or maybe they said "Brownie." In any event, I was sore to have to give up my delicious formulation about cameraless journalists.
But not so fast--my trickster higher power comes through for me once again, adding a grace note for good measure. Make that two grace notes.
Mary Ann Owens story comes down to us through two sources; one self-penned, published in a Gannett News Service-owned European outlet, Newsquest's This Is Local London, titled a catchy, "The day I thought I was going to die"; the other in an in-house organ, Gannett News Watch, lugubriously named, "In the Terror and Tragedy of the Attack on America, Gannett People Respond as this Democracy Requires."
That one was written by a Gannett Senior Vice President for News, Phil Currie, who said,
"Mary Ann helped calm one woman who was screaming. Her own hands shaking, she called her husband. Then she turned to her role as a journalist. "I went from car to car asking if anyone had a camera. Four cars down, a woman had a disposable camera. She asked for $20. I paid. An officer in uniform yelled for me to get back in my car. I snapped pictures of the carnage from my car as I was being directed away." Later, one of her photos from the scene moved on the wire for use in Gannett newspapers."So technically, I was off the hook, and could stick with my construction, since she still was a journalist without a camera. But when Mary Ann was writing her own story, details shift. She says,
First I checked to see if I was bleeding. I wasn't. Then I tended an hysterical woman in the car ahead of mine.She had to borrow both a cell phone and a camera?
Borrowing a mobile phone, I managed two quick calls; one to the office and one to my husband. Then I commenced a frantic search for a camera. I quickly clicked half the roll; careful not to take too many. I wanted to be ready for the arrival of a second plane, which I was sure would fall from the sky any minute.
Mary Ann continues,
Within a few minutes I gave up my vigil. Radio reports said the skies were clear, but another plane had just crashed into a Pennsylvania field. When security personnel ordered me off the scene, I didn't argue, I simply left.But, in an inconsistency, her article is accompanied by a photograph attributed to her that was either taken by the Gannett Sky Cam atop the silver towers, or somebody on the 22nd floor. Details like this matter, at least they should.
I wasn't going on to the office. I was going home. I needed to see my husband, call my children, hear my small grandson's voice. The full impact of actually being alive overwhelmed me. A mere 125 yards had made me a witness instead of a casualty. Survival wasn't a miracle, it was luck ... pure luck.
But an added treat is a second in-house, organ-dispensed treasure, penned by a Gannett "News Executive" named George Benge, who titled his article, in all caps, "BENGE: PENTAGON BLAST SENT ME OUT OF THE BUILDING AND INTO THE FRAY," noting, "it was 9:45 a.m."
After describing some carnage, he writes,
At 10:16 a policemen shouted for everyone to move away from the building. A man in U.S. Army fatigues barked orders to six men who were carrying a stretcher with a wounded man. He told them they would carry wounded until their muscles could take no more. Then he went back into the Pentagon.Thus Mr. Benge provides us with the most precise timeline of the morning, for which I'm grateful.
At 10:28, a speaker from a police car told the milling throng of military personnel, civilians and police to move away, that another hijacked jet was reportedly headed toward the Pentagon.
At 10:45, when a U.S. jet fighter plane screamed overhead, everyone flinched and ducked.
At 11:25 the hundreds of rescue, military and police officials rushed away from the building, fearing new blasts.
At 11:30 they all hustled back to the scene, the peril temporarily passed.
At 11:53, another mass evacuation occurred at ground zero.
Mary Ann's London article has a dateline, 5:00pm Wednesday 11th September 2002. Still trying to get my head around that one.
Daryl Donley, the orchestra manager and amateur photographer whose early shots on 9-11 entered the Library of Congress collection, gave his hometown newspaper, The Observer-Reporter, of Greene County, Pennsylvania, an interview on July 2, 2002, where he talks about how his images were marketed. Donley said he called a friend at Gannett, and he told her his story and that he had taken some pictures.
Gannett bought his photos and made them available to 100 papers across the country. "I never saw them in print, so I have no idea who used them," Donley said. But apparently, only a single outlet in Seattle WA used only one of his images, and that was in a year-end special commemorative edition. All rather odd.