by Max Marbut
Jacksonville Bar Association President Caroline Emery noted that Sept. 11 passed last year without much remembrance of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That inspired her to make the theme of the organization’s meeting last week “Where were you on 9/11?” and to invite a guest speaker who was at ground zero on that day in 2001.
Army National Guard Lt. Col. Mary Lowe Mayhugh was at work at the Pentagon the morning the airliner crashed into the building following the attacks in New York City. She was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency and said like most Americans, she will never forget where she was and who she was with when it happened.
“Like it did for everyone else, it started off just like any other day. Any good intelligence office always has a TV on, so we saw what had occurred at the World Trade Center. We just stared at the TV in disbelief,” she said.
“At first, we thought it was an aviation accident, perhaps something had gone wrong with the aircraft’s navigation system. Then the second plane hit and you could have heard a pin drop in the room. We all knew the country was under attack,” said Mayhugh She said she was in her boss’s office a short while later when “We heard a roar like a freight train was going past that shook the window and the blinds. Then there was a huge explosion and a shock wave shook the building, so I dove on the floor.”
The seconds following the impact were even more frightening, she said.
“We were hesitant to open the door to go down the hallway. We thought we might be shot at because there might have been terrorists in the building.”
Mayhugh then recounted her experiences evacuating the building through smoke and fire. She said the best thing she had ever seen appeared in the air as soon as she got out of the Pentagon on her way to the parking lot.
“It was a U.S. Army aircraft – one of the Jolly Green Giants – flying over the building,” said Mayhugh.
She said there’s something she will always remember about that day even more than the fire — chaos and tragedy.
“There was a lot of courage and bravery that day.”
Mayhugh concluded her remarks with, “I couldn’t think of a better organization with which to share my memories of 9/11. I look at everybody in this room as fellow patriots and soldiers. We all have heard ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. Your country depends on you to defend our democracy with the pen.”
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