The Federal Diary
The Federal Diary
Joe Davidson

Where they were: On 9/11 anniversary, federal employees recall their experiences

(Michael Lutzky/THE WASHINGTON POST) - At the Pentagon in Arlington, workers attend to people as firetrucks try to quash flames on Sept. 11, 2001.

The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks reminds federal employees that their facilities remain high on the list of potential targets.

But they are not deterred. The attacks only strengthened their sense of mission.

Joe Davidson

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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The Federal Diary remembers the 69 federal employees killed by the attacks at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center towers in New York and in an airliner that crashed into a Shanksville, Pa., field by listening to other federal workers. Speaking in their roles as union members so they won’t upset minders in their public affairs offices, they talked about where they were and what they were doing when the terrorists struck.


Flashing back to Oklahoma City

I was working in the IRS office in Oklahoma City. Several other revenue agents were seated and working in various cubicles when someone shouted, “Oh, no, not again!” We gathered around a radio listening in disbelief to a newscaster shouting that first one, then another, airplane had hit the World Trade Center.

Many of us were flashing back to April 19, 1995 [when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed by a domestic terrorist] and were talking of the horrible sights and the fear that the people in N.Y.C. must be going through. By midday, most of the employees took leave so we could be with our families — no one wanted to stay in the office. Nearly everyone felt frightened and frustrated with the lack of information.

Lauri Goff, Internal Revenue Service

Oklahoma City

Spurred to join the TSA

I became a federal employee after 9/11. I watched for days, like the rest of the country, the horror of what actually happened. And felt the shock of “this doesn’t happen to us.”

I felt the need, like everyone else, to help somehow. Having been at work as a gate/ticket agent for the airlines at Pittsburgh International Airport on Sept. 11, 2001, I loved the airport environment and knew I wanted to work there again. So I applied for the Transportation Security Administration. I knew that would be the way I would help and make a difference.

I have been at TSA for nine years now, and I love what I do. I have also been a union member with American Federation of Government Employees for 8½ years. I am a behavior-detection officer. We are committed to preventing another terrorist attack on our homeland.

So passengers, media and our congressional leaders can bad-mouth us all they want. It won’t change the fact that we love serving our country and will continue to protect our homeland. I am proud to work for TSA in the Department of Homeland Security. We believe in what we do every day and will not forget 9/11.

Kimberly Kraynak-Lambert,
Transportation Security Administration

Pittsburgh

Working near the Pentagon

My office faced Reagan National Airport, and I could not help but notice that planes were neither landing nor taking off. Another colleague of mine who had an office on the same floor had a line of sight to the Pentagon, and the two of us, along with other lawyers, watched in horror as gray and black smoke billowed from the Pentagon.

Most folks did not wait to get an official word that they could leave the premises and decided on their own to try to make their way home. I decided to wait.

When I did leave, my car was in the shop — which closed early — so I made my way across the street to rent a car. I was in line with folks who were scheduled to fly out of National but were now looking to drive. One of the folks in line was a gentleman in uniform who worked at the Pentagon, including that morning. That put the events of the day in perspective for me — especially since by then I knew my family was safe.

Howard Friedman,
Patent and Trademark Office

Alexandria

A colleague fatally injured

I was working in the Stoneham, Mass., office of the IRS. My position then and still is that of a revenue officer with the agency. Also, at that time I was the treasurer for National Treasury Employees Union Chapter 23, where now I am president.

We heard over the radio that a plane had been flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Some of us turned on the TV that was located in a training room. We had to use a set of rabbit ears because the picture was not too clear. It looked like a piper cub and not a jetliner.

Once it was confirmed that this was no accident, I remembered back to 1995 and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma. More and more employees came into the room trying to see what was happening. No one could believe what we were being told and seeing on the screen. Shortly after the second tower was hit and the two buildings started to crumble, we got the official word that we were ordered to go home.

Little did we know that one of our colleagues, Dave Bernard, was in Manhattan that morning. When the first plane struck the South Tower, he was about to enter and was hit by debris from above. He did not die that day but did suffer from massive injuries and passed away on Dec. 11, 2001.

Robert H. Tremblay, IRS

Stoneham, Mass.

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