Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001 - 8:05 a.m. EDT
(Interview with David Bloom, NBC-TV, for NBC Today)
Bloom: The search is still ongoing at the Pentagon, as well. Military strategists are preparing to make America's response to the attacks. Admiral Craig Quigley is the Pentagon spokesman.
Admiral, good morning.
Quigley: Good morning, David.
Bloom: I understand you're not prepared to talk about military planning. So tell us about the search and rescue operation. What's the latest at the Pentagon?
Quigley: Well, we have had good luck overnight, and we've been blessed with good weather here in Washington. The search and rescue crews from a variety of area of fire stations, from FEMA, from the FBI, from the military itself are continuing to work their way further into the rubble from the collapsed section of the Pentagon and are continuing to successfully remove remains. Then they are shipped up to the Dover Air Force Base mortuary for preparation and eventual turnover to the families.
Bloom: Admiral, I understand that the death toll, as well, has been revised. Is that right?
Quigley: We have 188 people that, total, died here in the Pentagon, as we can best account for them now. That includes 64 people on board the airliner and 124 that would normally be working here in the Pentagon or were visiting on that day.
Bloom: Admiral, I want to read you a section from a story in The Washington Post this morning, so allow me to just quote from this. It says "The nation's military Air Defense Command received word from the Federal Aviation Administration that a hijacked commercial airliner was heading toward Washington 12 minutes before it hit, according to a chronology prepared by the Pentagon. But until the moment of impact, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his top aides were unaware of any imminent danger." Is that true?
Quigley: Well, I think hindsight is a wonderful thing, David. And it would have been hard to predict, I believe, in anyone's mind that the airliner would have been headed for the Pentagon. The action that we took was to scramble fighter aircraft from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. But the time line was just too short. They were not able to get here in time. And as soon as the aircraft hit the Pentagon, I think very excellent evacuation procedures took place and we move to take care of the injured and remove them as quickly as possible from the area.
Bloom: And, Admiral, certainly no one at this difficult time is trying to engage in any finger pointing. Having said that, we know that at the White House as this plane was heading toward Washington, D.C., the Vice President, Dick Cheney, was rushed by the Secret Service into a secure location. We know that the building was ordered to be evacuated. Why weren't similar things happening at the Pentagon? There was, if I'm not mistaken, no evacuation prior to the impact. Is that right?
Quigley: There was no evacuation prior to the impact. And I think, again, it is that there was no accurate prediction that the plane could have been reasonably expected to be heading for the Pentagon. There are a variety of very important centers in Washington, D.C., this being one of them.
Bloom: Tell me, Admiral, what's being done now to help the families who lost people in this attack.
Quigley: Well, that's, indeed, where one of our principal areas of focus is, David. We have set up a family support center at a nearby hotel, nearby to the Pentagon here where families can come and get the latest information on recovery of remains, on the search for -- still hopefully for some survivors, on the removal of rubble and how the search is continuing, and just to be with other family members. In addition, each of the services that has lost personnel in the attack is remaining in close contact with the family members of mostly the Army and the Navy and keeping them very closely informed as to the status of the search for their loved ones.
Bloom: Admiral Craig Quigley, thank you so much. And our thoughts and prayers go out to you and all those at the Pentagon.
Quigley: Thank you, David, very much.