Editor: I am sending you this copy of a speech I gave on the steps of the courthouse in Leesburg one week after 9/11, on Sept. 18, 2001. Will we ever again see Congress join hands on the steps of the capitol and sing God Bless America?
Anthony V. Fasolo, Leesburg
Thank you, Mayor Webb for giving me this opportunity to speak on this solemn occasion. My name is Tony Fasolo and I live with my wife, Ann, in Exeter in the northern part of Leesburg.
I have been an Armycivilian for over 15 years and for 20years I was an army officer.So, I have been associatedwith the army for over 35 years.
In 1970, I was the casualty officer at United States ArmyVietnam Headquarters in Long Binhwhere I reported on all the army dead and woundedto the pentagon.However, thisexperience did not prepare me forthe horror that took place in New York, Pennsylvania,and the Pentagon on 9/11.
Ironic isn’t it that this took place on 911, the numberwe are all taught to use in an emergency?
One week ago, we all witnessed themost tragic day in American history that haschanged the world forever.It isa day that rivals 7 December 1941when Pearl Harbor was attacked. PresidentRoosevelt called it “the day that will live ininfamy.” However, more people were killed on 11 September
2001 than on 7 December 1941. Last week’s attackwas the first on us soil in the new millenium.It is also the first attack in the history of the worldwhere innocent civilians and adomesticairliner loaded with jet fuel was used as a weapon.Also, this is the first time that we have been attacked by a faceless band off fanatic terrorists instead of a nation.
I have been asked to say a few words to you tonight totell you something about what happened in thePentagon. I was working there when the tragedy occurred.Iwork less than one hundred yards from the impactarea and my boss, General Van Antwerp’s office, wasdestroyed.Fortunately, he and his deputy were not in thebuilding at the time but his executiveofficer, LTC Brian Birdwell was there as were twosecretaries, Cheryl Sincock and Sandy Taylor.
LTC Birdwell is recovering from burns over 50% of his body, but both Cheryl and Sandy are missing and presumed dead.
I remember watching the twin towers incident on TV that fateful morning.Someone told me that a singleplane had hit one of the towers.At that time myfirst thought was that there had been a terribleaccident. However, the next thing I was told wasthat a second plane had hit the othertower.This then was no accident.I rushed to aTV set to watch what was happening.I then returnedto my desk and called my wife where she works to let her know about what was happening at theWorld TradeCenter.
As soon as I got off the phone with her, I heard a loud“whomp” through the ventilating system and felt the building shake.I thought at first that one ofthe many construction workers working in the nextwedge had done something but then I heard peopleyelling “evacuate the building.”I grabbed my coat,briefcase and wallet and left the building leaving my computer on and my day-timer on my desk.I walked out with the rest of the office staff.Almost everyone was calm and orderly.I helped to console a colleague who was gettingvery upset.I kept praying that I would not panic.Wemade it outside with a lot of prayer.We were thentold to keep moving away from the building becauseanother jet was heading towards DC at ahigh rate of speed and was about 15 minutes out.Thisjet never made it. Was this the plane that crashed inPennsylvania?
We also heard many rumors about other buildings being hit in DC.Fortunately, these turned out to be false.I saw many people helping each other that day.No one tried to get ahead of anyone else or push anyone out of the way in order to get out first.Some people in head bandages were helped across the street. One person with asthma and without a breathalyzer was helped by a medic.
My first thought after getting clear of the building was that I had to let my wifeknow that I was OK and to also find a way home since I was notsure that the Loudoun Countycommuter bus, that I usuallytake to work would be running. I tried to call her on a cellphone that I had borrowed but I could not get through.I thenboarded a Metro bus that appeared on the scene and wastaken to Crystal City where we were stuck in a tremendoustraffic jam that was surprisingly very orderly. No one blewtheir horns or seemed upset.It was a quiet, surreal scene.
I then walked to the Crystal City Marriott and madea call to my wife from a pay phone in the lobby.Iwaited in line about one hour to use one of the twopay phones located there.Again, no one panicked, and everyone waited theirturn. I then thought about how I would get home.Idid not want to go into DC because of all themonuments there as well as the White House, Capitol,and other government buildings.I really did not want to use the subway because I thought that it would be a good target also.I then thought that I might be able to take a shuttle bus from Reagan National Airport to Dulles where my wife could pick me up, but National was closed and I could not even get close to it.I then reluctantly decided to take the subway (metro).On the way to the Crystal City station, I could hearreports on radios about what was happening in NewYork and at the Pentagon.I finally took the Metroto West Falls Church where my wife met me.
The events of the day have changed all of us.Many of us have friends or relatives who live and work in the Pentagon or atthe Twin Towers in New York.We also saw these events on TV.
I returned to the Pentagon for the first time yesterday.Surprisingly, my day-timer was still on mydesk and my computer was on.No dirt or water.It was as if nothing had happened and yet just a fewyards away, a commercial jet had hit the Pentagongoing at 350 knots an hour killing all on board andperhaps as many as 180 people in the Pentagon.
At yesterday’s remembrance ceremony outside the Pentagon where only six days earlier we had stood after being evacuated, MG Van Antwerp told us of Cheryl’s and Sandy’sdedication and loyalty and thatthey would want us to get back to work andinto ournormal routines.Cheryl was married to anArmy warrant officer and was a caringloving mother and grandmother.Sandy was adivorced mother of a daughter who is an all-American college lacrosse player.She hadrecently “discovered” Leesburg and spent severalweekends at Lansdowne.She often asked me wherethe best places were to eat at and what there was to see here in the Leesburg area.
The ACSIM called them both members of his family.Can we ever get back to what was considered“normal” last week?The ACSIM told us that so manythings have changed in our lives.However, for ourown mental health, we must getback into a routine and understand that it will notbe “business as usual.”
We were also to be waryof hating anyone who is not a Christian.MG VanAntwerp told us also to remember that we arelooking for a small band of terrorists that are wellfinanced and elusive.It will not be easy and amilitary strike will only come when we are sure that we have found the right people and at the right time.
The president said as much at the special ecumenicalservice held last Friday in DC.MG Van Antwerp alsotold us that President bush had visited LTC Birdwellin the hospital and after they had spoken for a fewminutes, the commander-in-chief of our ArmedForces stood up and walked to the footof the bed where he saluted LTC Birdwell!He also askedBrian to pray for him and that hewould be praying for him.
This is good advice for all of us, I know that I was praying as I evacuated the pentagon after hearing the loud “whomp’ through the ventilating system.Please prayfor the victimsand their families, therescue workers and, most importantly, our leaders.
The president has some difficult decisions to make and we all need to support him together with a united congress.
I know that the events of 11 September have changedall of our lives.I know that I am different.I feelnumb, angry, frustratedand have trouble concentrating.
I also find myself looking up every time I hear anairplane andthen watching it move across the sky tomake sure it is safe. But most of all I feel pride in being an American and know that we all need to be understanding of some inconveniences we will have to endure. But most ofall we have to keep our resolve.I believe that this isthe only way we will prevail.
Thank you for your attention tonight and may God bless the USA.