Local describes Washington scene after Pentagon attack

Silver Springs resident Lee Blomquist was just five blocks from the Pentagon when terrorists flew a hijacked airliner into the U.S. Army wing of the Pentagon.

She had arrived Saturday in Washington, D.C., to attend the American Humane Association conference at the Crystal Marriott Gateway Hotel.

"We were in a session and one of the people from the humane association broke into the session to let us know this had happened," said Blomquist.

People from the conference ran outside to use their cell phones and call loved ones to let them know they were all right. Many were not able to get through.

"We went looking for pay phones, which are very hard to find, to call our families and friends. We finally got through."

Bloomquist said she and the others went back inside and looked from the windows of the hotel in the direction of the Pentagon. They could see and smell the smoke billowing from the wreckage.

"The hotel highly recommended we stay there because they nor anyone else didn't know what was going on."

As they waited and watched reports on televisions in the conference room, Blomquist said workers from the Pentagon and others from nearby Reagan National Airport began arriving at the hotel.

"It was like refugees arriving to a safe place," said Blomquist.

"People were moved out on foot from the Pentagon to the hotel. Some of them were military personnel who were slightly injured. Then we got people from the airport, including pilots.

"One of the things I saw was an airline pilot watching the TV while they replayed and replayed the second plane flying into the World Trade Center. The look on his face when the place flew into the building... he was just sick. They are a tight-knit group of people. It was just the fact that something like that could happen. It was pretty wild for him."

Blomquist is scheduled to leave this afternoon. After checking her computer, she noted her flight out of Baltimore-Washington has not been canceled. Just in case, she and three new friends from Salt Lake City have a backup plan.

Blomquist has a rental car and if worse comes to worst, she and her friends will drive west. "I'm thinking it will be a quicker drive with the four of us. We can share driving duties."

Blomquist and the others tried their best to finish the conference.

"I left the hotel about 8:30 Tuesday night and went past the Pentagon. It was a very eerie sight with the spot lights and the smoke and fire. It was just incredible."

Blomquist then drove by the carnage Wednesday morning. What she saw brought her to tears. She could barely speak the words of the sight she will remember forever.

"This morning, somebody stuck a flag, an American flag, at the site. It was almost like Iwo Jima all over again."

The experience has been especially hard for Blomquist. She was enlisted in the U.S. Army from 1973-1977, stationed in Washington, D.C.

"Part of it was, I lived here in the '70s for four years and worked in the Pentagon. I was a driver for the comptroller of the U.S. Army for a couple of weeks. That was my job - driving people around. I've been on the White House grounds, and for somebody who's between 18-21 years of age, it's pretty big stuff."

When she gets home, her husband, Tom, will be the first one to get a big hug at the airport. When she's at home, it's the dogs' turn.

The Blomquists are the Silver Springs Spay-Neuter Project, a not-for-profit Nevada corporation focusing on spay-neuter programs.

They also arrange low-cost and subsidized veterinary work for the elderly and their dogs.

"Now people are asking me if I'm going to be afraid to be on a plane tomorrow. It will probably be safer than ever. I'm never in control when I'm on a plane, but I think it's a human thing. I don't think I have to worry about crashing into buildings at this time."


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