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Pentagon Ceremony Remembers Those Lost On September 11

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We are marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks today. The first two strikes brought down the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Half an hour later, at 9:37 a.m. Eastern Time, American Airlines Flight 77 was steered by hijackers into the Pentagon. A hundred and twenty-five people died there, as well as the 59 passengers and crew who were on board the plane.

We're joined now by NPR's Tom Goldman - Tom Bowman, who covers the Pentagon. Tom, thanks for being with us.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And you were there working at the Pentagon the day of the attack as a reporter. What happened? What do you remember?

BOWMAN: Well, Scott, I was a reporter with the Baltimore Sun that day heading to the Pentagon, and I was listening to NPR and reports of smoke at the Pentagon. That was all. And as I was on the road leading to the parking lot, I turned my head to see this wall of flame on the side of the Pentagon. I was so stunned, and I almost drove off the road. And I ran up this embankment. A construction worker said, hey, man, this plane was so low it clipped streetlights and slammed into the Pentagon. And you could see people running, stumbling to get out of the building. I ran toward the building. First responders push us back to the highway.

And I stood there with a cluster of people from the Pentagon. One guy had a cut in his head. Blood was streaking his white shirt. And there was a Marine officer, I remember, who only said, my wife is Muslim; I wonder what our life is going to be like now. It was just surreal and horrible and just this real sense of dread.

SIMON: What's in your mind today also having covered Afghanistan, the war, and now Afghanistan, the withdrawal?

BOWMAN: Well, I've been hearing from a lot of veterans who I met in Afghanistan who are struggling now, wondering, you know, was this all worth it? They think of the friends they've lost in the war that abruptly ended. Now we have pictures of Taliban beating people, killing people. And, you know, they're just - I think reflection will come later, many just trying to get Afghans out of the country now.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Bowman, thanks so much.

We're going to go now to the ceremony at the Pentagon, hosted by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley.

(SOUNDBITE OF CEREMONY)

LLOYD AUSTIN: I now invite you to stand and join me in a moment of silence.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.