Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eight USAToday Eyewitnesses Stuck in Traffic in Front of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001

Fred Gaskins USA TODAY national editor

"(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.

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.
She had to borrow both a cell phone and a camera?

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.

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, 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.

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.

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.
Thus Mr. Benge provides us with the most precise timeline of the morning, for which I'm grateful.

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.



  1. Glad to see we are finally moving up the food chain and away from the witness ops and local reporters (guilty as they are, maybe we just need to thoroughly soak them in an anti-ick bath or something and move on).

    I'm hungry for somebody from The 4th Estate to HANG for treason here, and I believe you are getting much warmer, you absolutely adorable defender of truth, justice, and the second amendment you.

  2. Meanwhile, on the flip-side of somebody to hang, let's see if we have any heros out there in the fourth estate (I've decided to abandon capitalizing it until it regains that honor) who will report on this nifty little development and unfolding drama direct from the real battle front:

  3. We didn't "miss" Fred Gaskins you dolt. Why don't you ASK us before insinuating your idiotic accusations? We didn't include him in that image because there is nothing to confirm that he was in that particular 1/16 of a mile stretch of highway. We tried contacting him to find out but no luck.

    Plus we found out that he doesn't work for USA Today anymore and was at one point working for the Daily Press which is the paper that published all of the bunk "2nd plane" stories by Terry Scanlon generating further suspicion in Gaskin's credibility as far as we're concerned.

    You see we report accurate information that we CONFIRM not uninformed speculation from staring at pictures. You really ought to step back from your computer one of these days and pick up a phone or something.

    YOU however missed Peter Kopf who is YET ANOTHER USA Today employee that was further back on 395.

    We didn't include him in that image either because we DID confirm his location and it wasn't in that particular stretch of highway.

    We interviewed him and Sucherman.

    I go through the list of USA Today witnesses to Sucherman asking if he knows each of them and it's almost surreal to hear him confirm that he knows almost every one of them personally.

    The Kopf and Sucherman interviews will make even someone with a cracked 6th sense cringe beyond belief.


  4. Plus the fact that he said it was "150 feet overhead" indicates that he was further back on the highway.

    If of course he was really on the highway at all which there is no proof of.

    We think it's likely that NONE of them were really there at all other than Mike Walter. Although for all we know he was parked over in the Pentagon south parking lot waiting for his cue to walk over to the scene.

    Oh and we are Citizen Investigation Team not "Citizen's".

  5. Wow. I've been looking for evidence that WTC 2 was somehow chemically prepped (either lathered or fumed, and the royal "we" are not sure the difference at this point -- but for a glossary of dustification terms, please see and voila! Here it is in broad video light!

    At about 6:50 on the timer for this video, it is there for all to see (assuming no video fakery) and even highlighted by the author of this video -- the entire side of WTC2 is lathering/fuming away preparing for the impact of plane 2.

    The outer facades of the WTC towers were chemically lathered/fumed and turned into toothpicks, folks, before the planes hit. That's why the planes are just flying into to them (and in the case of WTC 2 -- right through them, missing the core target and accidentally coming out the other side) as if they were, well -- made of toothpicks.

  6. Nichole--Wasn't it tower one that was lathering and fuming just as tower two was getting hit? That's what socialservice was pointing to. It looked like the side of Building 7 in that one extraordinary shot, which I assumed to be fake until Judy.

    XO SW

  7. wittle turtle soerry! He needed a rhetorical device!

    I don't buy your story in any case. Fred Gaskins was the national editor of USA Today on September 11, 2001. His quote
    was featured in an article in his own section of the paper. If he then went on ( or down) to work for a schlock operation, that detail only feeds the story.

    Mike Walters of course has gone on to co-host with Andrea Roane

    I'm just sorry I can't in good faith include Steve Anderson, the director of communications for USA Today, but he was up on the 19th floor with Lauren Ashburn, and his testimony sounds remarkably like a tutorial for Suchermann's

    Because I didn't think the idea down there was the linear displacement of the group, like a conga line, just the overall likelihood of clumpiness. I mean, I knew you guys were the witness experts.

    Thanks, very much, for Peter Kopf. I'll go Google stalk him now. But then, let's add Paul Haring to the Mark Faram, Lisa Burgess uniformed services lot, so we can get a total head count for the Gannett print media division. Paul was the Navy photographer who was writing the story while Mark was writer who was taking the pictures. The Navy! Go figure!

    Boy I do get a quick rise out of you, don't I!!! I'll be much more careful in the future.

    XO SW

  8. P.S. Craig: 150 feet can't mean "overhead" overhead, especially the further you go back. So I pictured it as "150 feet ahead, and up," a gentle arc, with a little bow in it, kind a like a kite, with him at the head of the line, discovering electricity.

  9. Don't mean to be a pain, but ya gotta look again more closely at this one, at 6:50. It's a difficult angle because tower 2 is hiding almost entirely behind tower 1, but there is definitely a faint sliver of tower 2 popping out there and that faint sliver is what appears to be lathering up. It goes by quickly and its the only view I've ever seen like this. It is possible that a faint lathering in WTC 2 is seen only from this angle.

  10. What story don't you buy? That we didn't include Gaskins, Anderson, and Kopf in that image because we don't have any confirmation they claim were in that exact location?

    We KNOW Gaskins worked for USA Today on 9/11.

    Don't you see?

    We are reporting what we have CONFIRMED.

    We aren't going to simply guess as to where they were like you have no problem doing.

    But that didn't stop you from insinuating we deliberately omitted Gaskins for whatever reason (maybe he's our handler!) without even bothering to ask us.

    Of COURSE garbage statements that implicate us get a rise.

    You've done ok with the Ashoka clips and just WAIT until you see what we have on Aziz.

    We have an image implicating him that would satisfy your deepest picture staring fantasies.

  11. Shhhhh!

    Don't talk about that in public!

    It's just between you and me.

  12. Oh Nichole!

    Spread Spread Spread!

    I don't know what is wrong with me--I kept looking at 7:50!

    6:50! Yes of course, socialsociety points it out, but his only reference is to wonder is it smoke!

    Oh hon, this is so good.

    Even Katie sitting there let's her pig-town accent emerge

    "This is so shocking for everybody watching.

    Ya right.

    So Nico, you want a medal or a plaque?

  13. Nichole--You took the log out of my ears (and no, it wasn't in my eye, or my ass)

    Check this out:
    @4:52 Katie and Elliot are both talking over each other, Katie has just mentioned "Ollie Eberhardt" and we can hear Al Roker say sotto voce,

    "A lot of those buildings fell over."

    He was channeling a devil FROM THE FUTURE!!!!