My Memories of 9/11/01

Jen M., Watch Officer, Arlington County (VA) Office of Emergency Management

PentagonResponseAs part of Arlington Public Library’s commemoration of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we conducted a series of interviews with first responders and others to share their stories and memories of that time.

Jennifer Meyers (Arlington County ECC Dispatcher)

“I was a dispatcher for Arlington County’s Emergency Communications Center on 9/11/01 and the memories of that day are still fresh in my mind as we approach the five-year anniversary. I recall the message on my work pager that I received shortly after hearing of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center on my car radio, it said, “Plane into Pentagon. We need all help.”

The next few hours were absolutely surreal. All the roads were empty, except for a line of emergency personnel in route to assist. I arrived at ECC and everyone was working as best we could in this tragic situation. The emergencies of all emergencies in my 10 years in Arlington. I remember thinking what an incredible job all my co-workers (dispatchers, police officers, fire fighters) were doing.

The quick response of assistance from surrounding, and even non-surrounding jurisdictions, was outstanding. The outpouring of support from the citizens and businesses of Arlington County was phenomenal in the weeks that followed.

I know all of us who worked that day and in the following weeks can recall moments that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. Mine was a phone call that I took from a man who spoke with extreme calmness, I believe he may have been in shock, he told me that he knew his wife had been on the plane that went into the Pentagon and he knew she was no longer alive. What he was requesting was for me to assist him in finding out who was sitting by her, he wanted to know what her last words may have been, he wanted to speak to the survivors. My heart sank and his voice is engrained in me forever. What I was not allowed to release to the public yet, was that they were almost certain there were no survivors on the plane. I provided him with a number that we had been instructed to give and he thanked me.

As dispatchers, there are so very often times when we feel we are the forgotten, the ones that go without thanks, and the ones that others don’t feel the incidents we work effect us. I hope one day it will be known what an incredible job the dispatchers in New York, Pennsylvania/New Jersey, and Arlington did, not only on that day, but every day. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced dispatching first hand, can understand what it is like to be on the other side of a phone and/or radio hearing such a multitude of emotions, attitudes, and even deafening silence.

September 11th has so many meanings for different people, but one I feel should be universal is that day brought out the best of the best and the bravest of the brave in us all. Never forget. All gave some, some gave all.”