Shocked, but Unafraid, Major Joined Volunteer Rescuers
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2001 Air Force Maj. Cynthia B. Colin didn't hear anything or feel the huge five-sided building shake when a jetliner slammed into the Pentagon yesterday. Her office was several corridors away from the crash site at Corridors 4 and 5.
But she saw the devastation when she tried to leave the building.
Colin had left her office for a while and found everyone gone when she returned.
"We were directed out the Mall exit (on the north side of the building) and ended up near the fifth corridor, where you could see the fire, smoke and the fire trucks," said Colin of the DoD Public Affairs Office. "They said, 'All uniformed personnel, we need volunteers, drop your hat, drop your tie, drop your backpack -- we need you.'"
She got in line and was issued rubber gloves and a mask. Emergency response officials showed hundreds of volunteers how to properly put the people on litters, Colin noted.
"I saw some burned bodies, but I was prepared to go inside and help recover the injured or dead," Colin said. "But because of the uncertainty of the safety of the building and reports that planes were two minutes out, we never went into the building."
The volunteers were eventually released and replaced by members of the Army's 3rd Infantry Regiment, the "Old Guard," from Fort Myer, Va.
Colin remembers seeing fire engulf the damaged wing of the building as she left the scene -- and seeing fire response teams and ambulances rushing in to help.
"My adrenalin was rushing, but I wasn't afraid of what was going to happen to me," she said. "I tried to stay calm and keep a level head. I was just in shock. I couldn't believe what I was witnessing -- couldn't believe what I was seeing."