A total of 184 people died during and after attack at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 and astronaut turned CSU professor, Ron Sega, remembers sitting in his office at the Pentagon when the walls around him shook as the third plane hit.
“It is a day that I will not forget,”said Sega, a newly hired engineering professor and vice president for Applied Research for the Colorado State University Research Foundation (CSURF).
At the time, Sega was Director of Defense Research and Engineering, where he oversaw all science and tech programs in the Department of Defense.
Sega was sitting at his desk, near the window when he felt the jolt. He said there were about five or six people in the office that morning.
After turning the TV on, Sega kept one eye on work and the other on the news.
Sega then remembers being told to evacuate the building because they had possibly been bombed.
Sega said initially he wondered what the next step was.
“I wondered, are we doing what we need to do at this point?” he said. “We didn’t know the cause of the jolt, we heard a rumor it was a bomb. We didn’t know it was a plane until we had evacuated the building.”
Sega said about 20 minutes passed from the time the plane hit to the time he and his crew exited the building.
“I don’t remember exactly how long it was,” he said. “Our office was pretty calm. We went about doing what we needed to do.”
Once outside, Sega saw a black cloud rolling across the building where the plane hit. The crash site was about one-third of the way around the building from Sega’s office, he said.
Sega recalled that while cell phones were not able to handle the sheer volume of calls, the landlines did fine, at least for the first few hours.
After spending about an hour at the rendezvous point to see if he could be of any help and trying to account for people who worked in his office, Sega walked the five miles home.
“On the walk home, it was extremely quiet, eerily quiet,” he said. “There were no airplanes flying. All commercial flights had been grounded.”
The next day, a small crew went to work in the building, which was still on fire.
After the attacks, Sega worked with others to identify programs to help aid the country in its defense programs to combat terrorism.
Sega said after similar situations, there is a sense of urgency in people coming together to bring solutions to problems like airport security.
He said, here, the sense of urgency is geared toward bringing forward the best-educated people as graduates to go into society and do great things.
Sega said that he thinks teamwork is an important part of being successful.
“I am looking forward to working as a team here,” he said.
Assistant news editor Nikki Cristello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.