Gardnerville resident Liz Paul remembers the Pentagon as a gargantuan center of activity, complete with shopping, a medical center and a fluctuating work force that averaged 24,000 to 26,000.
With Tuesday's attacks, Paul, who worked as deputy chief of protocol for the Defense Intelligence Agency, sat in horror in front of her television pondering a terrorist-caused airplane crash near a Pentagon heliport. Her husband, Roger, who also worked as a civilian military employee, sat beside her.
"When the terrorist hijackings were happening in the 1970s, that's when the Pentagon and other federal buildings started employing a bit more security," she said.
Of her 25 years in public service, Paul spent about 15 working out of a Pentagon office. "But nothing prepares you for this.
"There is nothing you can do to prepare for a planned plane crash. And where the heliport is, there is no barrier. It is next to the highway."
Paul said she remembers the Pentagon as being sophisticated in its preparation for outside attacks. The building, which houses the administrative offices of the country's military branches, is a natural target.
Shortly after the plane crash, Pentagon workers were evacuated.
Nearby military and civilian hospitals bolster the Pentagon's ability to react to an attack, Paul said. These include Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Medical Center.
"I still have a few friends back there," Paul said. "I can't call them, but I will try to e-mail them to see how they are.
"I would almost put this as being as bad as Pearl Harbor," she said. "These are symbols of our government and America."