He had prepared himself over the years for anything. He joined the hostage negotiating team, and then the SWAT team, although nothing ever happened. In 1995, he fired three shots at a suspected bank robber who was running through a parking lot near the Pentagon and missed, an outcome he says he’s happy about, because he wouldn’t want to live with the fact that he took a life.
He wanted to save a life. Then Sept. 11 came.
“What’s up, Sarge,” says Brennan, who is limping slightly because his ankles hurt, and he heads down a hall that reminds him of the one he says he crawled through on Sept. 11, staying low to avoid the smoke, inching toward the sound of people screaming for help, but finally turning around because the heat became too intense.
He crosses into an alley between two inner rings and stops.
“This is where the hole was,” he says, looking at a wall, sure of this one thing. “This whole side of the building was in flames.”
He walks into the next ring and then out into another alley that looks just like the first.
“Hold on,” he says, seeming suddenly confused. “Maybe this is the door I came out of. This is where it was.”
He looks around, sees an elevator.
“Guess what? There was no elevator. I don’t remember this. I was right the first time.”
He steps back into the maze and walks down another corridor, and the light becomes dimmer and orangish as he arrives at what is likely to be his final job at the Pentagon: working an X-ray machine at the loading docks, a portion of which was used as a temporary morgue on Sept. 11.
“Hey,” Brennan says to his future co-workers. “I’m joining your crowd now. I’m just like you guys.”
“Hey, how ya doing,” one worker says.
“This is where they shoot old men,” jokes another, greeting Brennan.
“Hey, this guy got the medal,” Brennan says, recognizing James Thomas, who was awarded the medal of valor for his efforts on Sept. 11, a distinction that eluded Brennan, because he was never able to name a person he saved.
The next Saturday Brennan is at home in suburban Stafford County. He wants to watch the “Nightline” tape again. But his VCR is broken, so he has rummaged in a closet for another tape.