Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Birddog and Cowboy: David Pheall and Carl Mahinken

Faux Pentagon heroics. I'll let the videotape and the transcript do the talking, except to say, operatives should learn not to sound like the Energizer Bunny---David. And grim. The emotional reality should be grim. This is not your big moment. The nics are simply beneath contempt.

Just wanted to get the names into the tribunal slot.



America Under Attack: Interview with Two Survivors of Pentagon Attack
Aired September 13, 2001 - 09:13 ET

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's turn it back now to the Pentagon.

CNN's Bob Franken has been standing outside in the wake of the devastation there. We've been talking an awful lot about those who are missing. We haven't talked about as much of those who have survived the carnage of the other day. Bob is going to tell us a little bit more about that -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, we've been hearing so much about the tragedy of this, but also stories of heroism, and we have two examples of that with me right now. We have a David Pheall, who is standing right next to me, and Carl Mahinken.

Both of you were working in an office maybe about a hundred feet or so from where the actual airplane actually collided. Tell me what happened.

DAVID PHEALL, PENTAGON ATTACK SURVIVOR: We did indeed. We were indeed fact working about 100 feet from what I call ground zero. We were talking to a major friend of mine in the Army, who was calling me up to hear if I had heard of what happened to the World Trade Center, and of course I did; everyone in Pentagon did. The whole Pentagon was abuzz that morning with the video footage of that, and jokingly told me, you know, the Pentagon is probably next, you ought to get out of there, and we sort of chucked about that, and she said, again, I'm serious, David, you really ought to get out of there, and it was at that moment that I described it as the gates of hell opening up. The wall that was aside me just simply crumbled, much the way that you would crumple a piece of loose-leaf paper.

And you have a moment there to realize what is happening. And probably because she had planted the seed in my mind, I knew instantaneously what had happened, and I thought, we were under attack, and there was a brilliant flash of light which came from the corners of the wall which had given away, and immediately, I was thrown about 25 feet back into the office next door, still had the phone in my hand. And my response was immediate, and again, because she had planted the seed I am sure, I immediately started making my way toward Karl. who that was about 25 feet away from me in the office.

FRANKEN: What was going on with you?

CARL MAHINKEN, PENTAGON ATTACK SURVIVOR: I was sitting there working on my desk. I just came from downstairs, watching the terrible scene of the World Trade Center. I sat down, and my PC just comes and hits me in my face, but it was more than that. It was this instantaneous force. In the my mind, I closed my eyes, and I can hear the ripping of the metal, the tearings down of the walls, and just this force that knocks me I don't know how far back, but when I looked up, I saw nothing but just confusion. The walls were down. We were calling over, our studio where we work, and we went to the next room. We found some people.

I call him "Bird Dog," because he was looking for a way out, and he said, cowboy, let get out of here, so we did, and we went to the room, and said, where are we. I said, we're in the delta 535, and I said OK, let's keep moving, and we knew that where we had to go. And on the way, we heard people that were crying, that were upset, but it still not a sense of chaos, even we were there where there was and hardly any light, except for the fire and for the emergency lights.

PHEALL: When I came too, the walls around me were on fire. One of the wall had collapsed on top of me, and I will believe until the day they I think that that deflected the fireball that injured so many people in offices near us.

FRANKEN: Well, your offices are on the first floor, right.

PHEALL: That is correct.

FRANKEN: And so of course the damage is overhead. The fireball, as you found out, literally went over your head.

PHEALL: It did indeed. I mean, there was obviously a fire force when I stopped, and when I finally landed, everything around me was on fire, and the smoke was just incredible. The smoke was just billowing into our little corridor at just an incredible rate, and frankly, there is a vacuum that happens on impact, and the lungs -- and the air in my lungs were just sucked out, and the first breath that I took was just this intensely hot, thick smoke?

FRANKEN: So you were knocked out, and you were almost knocked out.

PHEALL: I wasn't knocked out actually. I was spring-loaded. Immediately I was up and over the wall and calling for Carl.

FRANKEN: As I understand, it once you found out that you were safe, you were trying to get people out.

PHEALL: We did. And we started climbing over the rubble. And it was a matter of, there were no floors left, I mean, there was rubble on the floor that we were walking on top off, twisted desks, and filing cabinets and portions of walls. So much so that you can lean on the ceiling at certain points, and I was in fact grabbing rebarb that was hanging on the ceiling. I was amazed at the destruction. It was total. It was complete. Just as far as you could see, it was nothing but rubble, and we got scared at one point, when we came up to where I thought that the hallway should have been, there was a cement blockade in our way.

And I really got scared at that point, because the smoke was so bad that I thought that we were entombed in it, but we were and able to pull some cement away and vent some rebarb back, and only upon reflection and hearing other stories that I truly believe that it was the floor that fell down, and it simply fell down like a garage door and continue to block the sections of the hallway.

FRANKEN: Were people following you? You have the nickname "Bird Dog" now.

PHEALL: When we crawled through, I was -- I refused to die. I remember making a conscience decision, I am not going to die here in the Pentagon today. And when we got to that first cement blockade, it was just a matter of running my hands along the wall, pulled some cement down, bent the rebarb back, and Carl was hot on my tail, and we crawled through that and into another section, and we were crawled into the other section. There was this eerie, white dust on everybody's face, and I think that one of the emergency lights had strangely illuminated the entire area, and a few people whose names I don't know, but whose faces I recognize would pass me everyday in the hallway.

Everyone just had this look on this face like, did this really just happen? And I buzzed right by them, asking if everybody was OK. Carl was checking on other people and you can hear people calling for other people, you can hear people making an accountability, an immediate accountability there for the people there in the area, and we continued our movement on out of the Pentagon. I knew where there was a door, and I continued my movement toward that area.

FRANKEN: As I understand it, one of the first people who you saw when you got outside was Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

PHEALL: It was about a minute or half or so after we had gotten outside, because as soon as we got outside and we made a run down the E-ring, we were from D-ring, of course which is one hallway back from E-ring, which is the outside ring, and we ran down E-ring, calling for people before we had actually left the Pentagon, but E-ring, thankfully so, was vacated, in preparation for the renovation of the Pentagon, E-ring was vacated, and there wasn't much left to it frankly. And at that moment we saw some emergency people running into the building, and without respirators, we knew that we had to get out, because the smoke was so bad, and as soon as we got out of Pentagon, there were people who had simply had collapsed outside of, and gasping for fresh air, and we simply picked them up, and it was just amazing to watch how the military just sort of naturally fell into line.

There are certain skills that are simply instinctive to you, and it's drilled into you. As a former soldier, I didn't have to think about what happened, as a reserve officer, neither did Karl. And there were others on the spot.

FRANKEN: As I understand it, the three-star general automatically started in fact organizing things out there?

MAHNKEN: That's correct.

PHEALL: We saw a lieutenant colonel out there who was a doctor. She was the first. And I asked her what she need me to do, and she said make an IV. I told her I'm not a medic, and she said stretch the IV and said, make it look just like this.

MAHNKEN: They were improvising.

FRANKEN: So, as I understand it, at about that moment you saw the secretary?

PHEALL: Yes, there was a secondary explosion, there was some confusion, some screaming, somebody yelled out that it's probably a fuel tank. I remembering thinking that makes sense, and we went back to work.

And it was probably, I would say 15, 20 minutes or so after the explosion when we were triaging these people, and we had medivaced one lady away who was burned, and we just sort of made our way as these people came out. They would just be laid further down the line.

And there was a point there, about 15, 20 seconds, where I wasn't engaged, Carl was holding an IV bag, and I looked up and there's the Secretary of Defense. And I remember thinking, good for you, this makes sense.

And I stood up and just started briefing the Secretary of Defense as to the injuries that we had sustained in this area, describing some of the injuries, describing that one lady had been medevaced away and some of the other injuries that we saw.

FRANKEN: So we want to report now that the Dover Delaware facility, which is designed to handle casualties, that type of thing, we've seen it so many times used when there have been overseas disasters. It has been activated. It will be receiving those who did not make it.

But, we just heard the story, the heroic story, of somebody who in fact was able to survive. Miles?

O'BRIEN: CNN's Bob Franken reporting live from the Pentagon. To say that was a harrowing tale is a bit of an understatement.


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