Glimpse into 9/11 Pentagon attack
Fri, 09/10/2021 - 2:13pm admin
—Julie Zajicek Yuson recalls that fateful day in 2001
WASHIngTON, D.C. - [Editor’s Note: In response to a request for her memories, Julie Yuson, daughter of Jim and Pat Zajicek of Protivin stated, “I still don’t like thinking about 9/11 and rarely talk about it all these years later. It was a challenging and emotional time for me.”]
I was an active duty Air Force nurse at Andrews Air Force Base (AFB). It is located in Maryland, just outside of D.C. I was working at the Family Health Clinic when I heard the news. I had just walked into a colleague’s (doctor) office and he had the news on and he said, “A second plane just flew into the twin towers. That’s no accident.”
My husband, P.J., was working at the Pentagon. I knew he had worked the night shift the previous night, but he sometimes stayed at work past his shift for meetings, etc. At the time, I did not know if he had left the building prior to the plane’s impact, or if the plane hit the same side of the building where he worked.
Phone lines were down or overwhelmed for a couple hours and there was no way for me to even call and find out where he was. Thankfully he was able to call me early that afternoon to say he was at home and had slept through all of the news and phone calls from family members.
He then went to pick up our daughter from school as nobody knew what to expect that day or beyond. Him picking her up was also a huge relief to me because until I heard from him, I had no idea who would be able to get her and care for her while I was at work with the disaster response teams.
I had to stay at work late that night, maybe 7:30 or 8 p.m. I just remember it being very dark outside when I left work. We had cancelled all medical appointments after the news of the attack, but as medical providers we were previously assigned to disaster response teams, and that day we were placed on standby to see if we would be deployed on buses to the Pentagon to provide rescue or recovery efforts. The bus before mine was the last one that was sent to the Pentagon that day.
Our son was only six months at the time and was at a military spouse’s/daycare provider’s home on Andrew AFB. When I called her to say that I couldn’t reach my husband and had to be on standby to respond at the Pentagon, she told me she would keep our son as long as needed.
I remember feeling super apprehensive about all of the unknowns: what we would encounter at the scene of impact, would there be additional attacks, would my kids be okay for however long I would be away, did the daycare provider have enough supplies and frozen milk on hand to keep my infant happy until I could get there, could my active duty husband miss work during the time of crises if needed to provide for our kids in my absence, would my husband or I have to be deployed as a result of the attacks on America, etc.
Other things that really stuck out to me that day: when I was leaving work, the entire base was extremely quiet, as if uninhabited, as we waited to see what would happen next. There was a subdued and on-edge feeling in everyone around me as we waited in our disaster preparedness teams.
As I left the clinic that night, a military helicopter flew right over me, and I just remember it being super loud and close and wondering if that meant the President, VP, or some other high official were headed to the base airfield to leave on Air Force 1, etc.
Finally, the drive home to Virginia was very strange and unsettling as well. Traffic was usually very heavy at all times and often gridlocked on that interstate. That night, there was only one other vehicle on the road with me and it was a big semi carrying large concrete barriers.
The norm was completely gone, and it felt eerily silent and unusual. After we crossed into VA, the semi headed north toward the Pentagon, and I remember thinking life as we knew it would be forever changed by the large scale attacks that occurred that day.
Thankfully no long-term side-effects for any of us. My husband’s office was on the opposite side of the Pentagon from the one that was hit. Neither he nor I lost any colleagues that we personally knew.