Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"One of the Most Heroic Deliverers"

One of the most lauded rescue stories to emerge from the attack on the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, is of how Lieutenant Commander David Tarantino and Capt. David Thomas. rescued Darrell "Jerry" Henson from the Navy Command Center. Lt. Comdr. Tarantino won the Medal of Valor for his exploits, while Capt. Thomas and Mr. Henson both had the clothing they were wearing that day enter the Smithsonian Museum.

In its most recent retelling, the Defense Department book, Pentagon 9/11, calls him, "[o]ne of the most heroic deliverers," telling us that Tarantino first helped to guide dazed and confused people from Corridor 4, then,
"moving on to A-E Drive, Tarantino encountered human remains, a large hole in the C Ring wall, a large airplane tire, and smoke billowing along the roadway. Cries for help coming from trapped victims compelled response."
Pentagon 9/11 starts to get vague at this point--I think on purpose--placing Tarantino in a group and then saying things like "some of this group" went "through one of the holes." But Tarantino entered the Navy Command Center, and we must assume that is the hole he used.

Because a serious conflict in the narrative arises here, one that is completely internal to Pentagon 9/11, which published a previously unknown photograph with some stunning new evidence. It is of a clearly recognizable airplane tire resting in the debris pile lying outside of the "punch out" hole. However that is a different blast hole in the A-E Drive; it entered a different secure office, in a different wedge, from the Navy Command Center.

What could explain a book that includes a never-before-seen photograph showing a clearly recognizable piece of airplane tire debris lying outside of a blast hole, while simultaneously publishing a first-person account describing somebody's encounter with a large blast hole and a large airplane tire--but where the evidence suggests that it's a different hole?

Given the way that the book puts things isn't really clear maybe Tarantino's own voice should speak for itself.

An article, "Pentagon Rescuer," in the Nov.-Dec. 2001 issue of Navy Medicine magazine (Vol 92, no.6) pages 23-24, was based on an interview conducted by Dr. Gary Weir and Commander Mike McDaniel of the Naval Historical Center on 25 Sep. 2001 with Tarantino, where he had this to say:

I went back in and found myself in the open air space between the B and the C Ring on the inner aspect of the C Ring between the 4th and 5th Corridors. There was a big exploded hole in the wall that was pouring out thick black smoke, and there was a big plane tire sitting there, and evidence of human remains. I heard cries for help from inside this wall. This was not an exit through which people could come. The doors, 20 yards either way, were spewing out black smoke. A couple of people exited from there.

But [then] we heard these cries in there from people who were trapped. So a few of us - four or five people - grabbed fire extinguishers and started fighting our way in through this exploded breach.
This is so much clearer now. To sum up: Tarantino found himself in the A-E Drive, next to a big exploded hole in the wall, with a big tire sitting there, and this hole had doors 20 yards away from it on either side, from which people, and black smoke spilled out.

The lovely detail here is Tarantino calling the "punch out" hole a door because he really couldn't see it, but the incontrovertible detail is ...on either side.

I've been at this for awhile. I first wrote a blog about Tarantino over two years ago. I'm beginning to see the method to the madness now:

As the years moved on, and shifting stories not only didn't add up, they began to collide, the narrators reached back into those first heady days when their every utterance commanded emotions, and their facts still had credibility, so they plucked a diamond out of the dung heap to shine. Then they did what we all know they can do now--they doctored a photograph, or they staged a photograph, or they finally got the FBI to give them that damn photograph of the airplane tire debris, where have you been keeping it for six years? Not caring that its six years later, and nobody believed them any more. What the hell! Sargent William Lagasse made a chance anomalous remark confounding port and starboard once, but it's on the record, so lets make a whole conspiracy theory film industry out of it. We got to do something.

But they got the wrong hole. Ouch!

And there's more.

Pentagon 9/11 says there were "other volunteers" in the "rescue group," including Surgeon General of the Air Force Lieutenant General Paul Carlton, Jr., adding,
"Other members of the rescue party, including General Carlton, who witnessed Tarantino's and Thomas's heroics, helped Henson out of the Command Center, placed him on a stretcher and carried him out to the Center Court. Tarantino, while still holding up the heavy weight with his legs, called out for other victims but heard nothing."

"Later, in the A-E Drive, Tarantino and Thomas, 'coughing and retching,' wiped 'the crap off our faces and tears from our eyes.'"

The man on the right in this photograph is identified as Lieutenant General (Dr.) Paul Carlton Jr., Surgeon General of the Air Force. It was taken in the afternoon of September 11th, 2001 on Route 27/Washington Blvd, directly near the impact site. The man in the center is identified as Master Sergeant Noel Sepulveda, USAF. He was awarded the Air medal and a purple heart for his heroics that day. The man on the left is not identified but he wears a strap around his neck with the initials ICAF, which most likely stands for the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Lt. Gen. Carlton has a small stain on his shirt sleeve near his elbow, but the other men do not appear the worse for wear.

Screw Flickr.

I love the way the man is hiding behind Mr. Sepulveda. There is something particularly sinister about the way he looms--as if he thinks he took an invisible pill or something. The other man, behind Carlton, just might possibly be talking on a cell phone with his right hand, but I think he too has been asked to duck. The other man's only purpose is to hide. I wish I could read what that hat says.

(For a fuller, first-person account of Lieutenant Commander David Tarantino, of the US Navy Medical Corps, who was assigned to the Secretary of Defense in the Office of Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs, see his recollections in Oral Histories: War Against Terrorism, September 11, 2001 to present.)

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