WASHINGTON – Like much of the nation on the morning of 9/11, Lisa Leonard was mesmerized by the TV images of attacks unfolding at the World Trade Center in New York.
But the television where Leonard and her colleagues watched the attacks was in their office in the Pentagon, which was about to become a target itself.
“When the plane struck the building we actually knew we were hit at that moment. Our windows cracked, the building shook and when we came out of our offices there were people running towards us, covered in plaster,” said Leonard, who was working with the Army budget liaison office in the Pentagon.
“We counted to make sure everyone that was in our office was safe and then we headed outside the building,” she said.
Now, 10 years later, Leonard is back outside the Pentagon. After retiring from the Army in 2009, she returned to volunteer as a tour guide for the 9/11 memorial outside the Pentagon walls.
The memorial, opened in 2008 as the first national 9/11 memorial, is a field of 184 cantilevered stone-and-steel benches, each arcing above a pool of running water.
Each bench is inscribed with the name of a victim of the Pentagon attack, including three with Arizona ties: Allen P. Boyle, David M. Scales and David W. Laychak.
Scales, a colonel in the Army Reserve, served in Colorado, Virginia and South Korea before moving to Arizona, where his wife and son remained when he moved east to work in the Pentagon. He was in his office and emailing his wife, Patricia, on the morning of 9/11, according to his biography on pentagonmemorial.org.
Boyle met and married his wife, Rhonda, in Arizona before moving to North Carolina where she was stationed with the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. They moved to Virginia when he began working at the Pentagon. The couple had three children, according to his pentagonmemorial.org listing.
Laychak served in various positions with the Army, including time spent as a budget analyst at the Pentagon in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He worked with the Army Signal Command at Fort Huachuca in Arizona before returning to the Pentagon in 2000. He and his wife, Laurie, had two children, according to the memorial website.
Those three were killed, along with 181 others, when hijackers crashed American Airlines flight 77 into the side of the Pentagon, killing everyone on board and 125 people in the building. The oldest victim was 71 years old, the youngest 3.
Despite the chaos, Leonard remembers the odd quiet as she and her colleagues who were not harmed in the attack evacuated the building.
“Everyone was so calm, it was amazing,” she said. “It was like what you practice in school with fire drills. It was very quiet.”
She said she is a tour guide at the memorial now so that she, and others, will not forget that morning.
“Being here and giving the tours really helps me, and every day it means something special to me to talk about what occurred,” Leonard said.
Cassondra Strande is a reporter for Cronkite News Service.