Pentagon Honors First Responders for Valor
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 6, 2002 Pentagon officials honored 39 people March 5 for the valor on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew a hijacked jet into the Defense Department headquarters, killing 189 people and injuring hundreds.
David O. Cooke, director of administration and management, presented Medal of Valor awards to the 39, all employees of the Pentagon's Real Estate and Facilities Directorate. Of the 39, one is employed in the Leased Facilities Division, 17 in the Defense Protective Service and 22 in the Federal Facilities Division.
"In a very real sense, the war on terrorism began at the World Trade Center, in the skies over Pennsylvania and here at the Pentagon," Cooke told honorees, family members and friends assembled in the Pentagon auditorium. "It was a day when innocent Americans suffered and died."
He said the defense employees were ordinary Americans who did extraordinary things that day. "They laid their lives on the line for others," he said.
The Pentagon's first responders "clearly showed their courage. They went back into the building. Some stood knee- deep in water, turning off electrical circuits at the risk of electrocution," Cooke said. "They moved into this environment with falling debris. They held back fires with fire extinguishers while other people got out.
"The attack was designed to intimidate, and the targets were symbols of our American way of life," he noted. The heroism displayed in the wake of the attack, however, made it clear "the terrorists were not going to prevail."
Paul K. Haselbush, head of the Real Estate and Facilities Directorate, praised the Pentagon's protective service officers for being "vigilant and active when the chips were down.
"They maintained excellent perimeter security in the most hostile of environments," he said. "Working in the gravest of extremes, Defense Protective Service officers put their lives in jeopardy to provide emergency instruction and security and, simultaneously, rescue people."
Haselbush said federal and leased facilities personnel turned off critical electrical, water and ventilation systems and joined the rescue effort. "Despite the likelihood of structural collapse and explosions," he said, "the real estate facilities rescuers continued to free people from endangered areas for hours upon hours."
It was no accident that the Department of Defense national headquarters was operational on Sept. 12 even though it was still on fire in many locations, he continued. "The rapid recovery of the Pentagon's infrastructure was the result of heroic actions at the point of attack and years of planning that just such an event might happen."
In a letter about the attack's aftermath, released at the ceremony, an anonymous directorate employee wrote: "Think about what you, the federal worker, put at stake to support the Pentagon's mission this 9-11 day and the weeks to follow. You did your mission and you did it well."
The Medal of Valor is the highest award the Defense Department can give to civilians for courage and valor.