Clarke, Asst. Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
David Chu, Under Sec. of Def. for Personnel and Readiness
Meg Falk, Director of the Office of Family Policy
Maj. Gen. Jim Jackson, Cmdr of the Military District of Washington
Ed Plaugher, Arlington County Fire Chief
September 12, 2001
10:16 A.M. EDT
CLARKE: Thanks very much, you all.
I've just got a brief statement and then a few people who have got some important
information we want to get out today.
I'd just like to say a couple of things. First and foremost, the Department
of Defense is open for business. We're here, we're operating, and we're functioning
Our priorities this morning, today, are to care for the injured and the dead
and their families; to work closely with the president and the national security
team, to ensure the safety of the American people and our men and women in
uniform around the world; and to determine who was responsible and what the
course of action will be.
A couple of things I want to say up front. We do not have solid casualty numbers.
I know this important. It's important to us. When we have numbers that we
feel more confident about, we will get those numbers out, and at the right
The other thing I want to make very clear is, we are not going to be talking
about military operations from this podium or elsewhere. We are not going
to be talking about intelligence matters from this podium or elsewhere. It
is not helpful.
And our primary focus this morning is to provide information about assistance
to the families, about the search and rescue operations, and about the damage
assessment on the building.
I'm joined today by our under secretary for Personnel/Readiness, David Chu;
the Military District of Washington commander, Major General Jim Jackson;
and the Arlington County fire chief, Ed Plaugher. And I'd like to have each
of them come up, make some brief comments, and hold your questions till the
CHU: Torie, thank you very much.
As you all know, the Department of Defense family has taken a terrible and
tragic loss with the last 24 hours, and our deep sympathy goes out to the
families of those most directly affected by these tragic events.
On the positive side, I am truly impressed by the spirit of the people in
this department and the way they have rallied round, both yesterday and this
morning, coming back into this building.
I do have, for those who have offices in the area bound by Corridors 2 through
6, which, as you know, are not useable at this juncture, we simply ask they
call their supervisors for instructions on where they're supposed to go, if
they've not already received those instructions.
I also want to give the department's thanks both to our own people and to
the nation at large for the extraordinary, truly extraordinary response in
donating blood. It's just terrific, and it shows how Americans will pull together
in a crisis.
We are establishing -- it is now open -- at the Sheraton Crystal City, 1800
Jefferson Davis Highway, which, as you know, is on the Crystal City Metro
stop -- a Pentagon Family Assistance Center. This is will fold into one place
all the family assistance efforts of the department for all personnel, military
of all branches, and civil. I'll have Meg Falk, who is our director of our
Office of Family Policy, in just a moment say a word or two about the kind
of capabilities that they have down there.
We will have a telephone number there shortly. Verizon is working very hard
on installing that. It's not yet in, so unfortunately, I can't give you that
number at this time. It will be a number, I should emphasize, just for the
families. This is a center designed to help those families who are missing
a family member, a family member is deceased or a family member is injured.
We are committed to providing all the resources of the department to giving
them the assistance that they should have.
I will emphasize we don't have answers to all your questions this morning.
We are still working on some of these issues.
I would also emphasize to the families that the Sheraton Crystal City location
is the place to go, not to the Pentagon, which is not the place we have this
set up. It's set up in a commercial establishment, making it easier for them
to get access and to make it as feasible as possible for us to provide them
the services they need and deserve.
And with that, let me get Meg to say just a word or two about the kind of
capabilities down there.
FALK: Yes. The Family Assistance Center set up at the Sheraton Crystal City
is staffed with the best resources we could get. We have chaplains, social
workers, personnel from all the services there to help and assist our families
any way we can. We also have expertise, unfortunate expertise of people who
served in the family assistance centers in the aftermath of Khobar and the
Cole. They drove through the night to get up here so as to provide the very
best possible support for our families.
And I, too, want to thank all those who worked all day yesterday and through
the night in order to set up the center and to make all of the resources and
all the care and all the love that we can give to our families who have lost
their loved ones, to make all that happen.
So we encourage the families to go there. We will try to do everything we
can to assist them. We can't answer all their questions at this point, but
we will do our best for their questions to give them answers in as expedient
time as possible.
QUESTION: Excuse me. Can I just ask --
CLARKE: We're going to ask -- (inaudible) -- important. We'd like each person
to make their comments because their work is related.
QUESTION: Could we have them spell their names?
FALK: "F" as in Frank - A-L-K. First name is Meg, M-E-G.
CLARKE: Major General Jim Jackson, you can come up and talk, and then we'll
have Ed Plaugher.
JACKSON: My command's mission is to make sure that the military support that
is needed for the operation is provided timely and effectively. And it's all
based upon the incident commander's desires, and right now he is represented
by the fire department personnel that you'll meet here shortly.
In that regard, what we are doing primarily right now is we're assisting in
securing portions of the building inside to prevent personnel from going into
damaged portions of the building. We're providing light labor support outside
as required. I have an engineer company on the ground that is trained in urban
search and rescue that is assisting the other teams, working in conjunction
with them. And we're also functioning as the DOD liaison element with all
the police, fire and other federal agencies in a combined operations center.
I'll answer questions in a little bit. Thank you.
CLARKE: Then the Arlington County fire chief, Ed Plaugher, which is P-L-A-U-G-H-E-R.
PLAUGHER: Good morning.
As you can see for yourselves, we are still engaged in a very stubborn fire
fight with parts of the building. We have recently requested some additional
specialized apparatus that will gain entry into the center courtyard of the
Pentagon, and we're bringing additional specialized individuals very highly
trained in this type of fire fighting.
We do have on the scene the FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] team,
and they've been here for some time now.
As a matter of fact, when they're all here, there will actually be four of
the what are called USAR-FEMA [Urban Search and Rescue-Federal Emergency Management
Agency] teams. They are starting operations at this point in the crash site,
while fire fighting operations are going on in the other parts of the Pentagon.
We have no estimate at this time of how long it's going to take to get the
fire out or how much additional resources we're going to need. However, as
we get information we will be sharing it with you through the joint information
center, which is part of the FBI's joint command post.
QUESTION: Can you tell us about the persistence of the fire --
QUESTION: Why it is so difficult in that apparently attic area that continues
to burn? What is it about that?
PLAUGHER: They type of the construction of the Pentagon is very, very, I would
call, stout World War II type of construction. A lot of concrete, a lot of
very thick masonry. On top of that is a wooden roof structure. On top of the
wooden roof structure is slate, and so it's just a very very difficult system
to get through to extinguish, and it takes a lot of cutting with special tools
and equipment, and then a lot of hand work by the firefighters to get up in
there. And we're trying to get ahead of the fire right now.
QUESTION: Are you going to knock down the sections that are leaning in the
damaged part? Is that part of the game plan, or is that still a pending decision?
PLAUGHER: What typically USAR does is they make sure that they make it as
safe as they possibly can for their people, so any debris that is loose or
hanging comes down first. And so that you'll see that operation where there
is some sort of demolition going on, and that is to make sure that any of
the loose stuff doesn't fall on the rescue workers.
QUESTION: Question, but with a very brief prelude. Yesterday, earlier, of
course, most of the smoke and the fire seemed to be fuel from the plane, and
then late yesterday afternoon, that had dissipated or been put out, and there
was light smoke, and actually very little late in the afternoon. Now there's
a lot more. So, there are two questions, or a two-part question: One, what
is burning? And two, what's caused the fire, apparently, to start up again?
PLAUGHER: Okay. We were never able to fully extinguish the fire in the roof
structure. We were able to get it mostly knocked down, and again because we're
having extreme difficulty making access under the slate roof, it's to be expected
to take awhile to get there. We have had the fuel from the jet catch fire
again, and we're now in there with some additional hand-lines and some foam-lines,
with aircraft fire-fighters inside of the insides of the Pentagon trying to
suppress it, this time with fire-fighting foam.
QUESTION: You said aircraft firefighters?
PLAUGHER: Yes, from the airport.
QUESTION: From the airport?
PLAUGHER: From Reagan National Airport.
QUESTION: Have you removed the bodies?
QUESTION: Could you tell me how many bodies have been removed?
PLAUGHER: We have no information on any type of casualty or body counts at
QUESTION: By that you mean you haven't removed any bodies yet?
PLAUGHER: I will not say that, okay? But that whole process is being set
up and is going to take some time. So again, that's not part of this briefing.
QUESTION: Will you have to get onto the roof in order to put out that fire?
PLAUGHER: Yes. We're up on the roof, we're up there now. We have our fire-fighting
forces up there with great support from all the area fire departments -- Washington
QUESTION: Are you removing sections of the roof to get at the fire?
PLAUGHER: Yeah. We're doing what's called a "trench cut" which
is a slice of the roof, which then lets the fire gases out of that part of
the roof. We then bring water streams into the back part of the fire cut,
and so that the fire actually sucks the water up to it and helps to extinguish
the fire up there. Please excuse me, I've been up all night, so. But that's
basically the technique that's used.
We have a couple of hundred firefighters on the fire ground right now from
all of the area fire departments.
QUESTION: Can you give us any sense of the area that was destroyed, how wide it
is? How many feet? And did it break through to all five rings of the Pentagon?
PLAUGHER: It did not break through to all five rings, and I do not know the
QUESTION: Is there anything left of the aircraft at all?
PLAUGHER: First all, the question about the aircraft, there are some small
pieces of aircraft visible from the interior during this fire-fighting operation
I'm talking about, but not large sections. In other words, there's no fuselage
sections and that sort of thing.
The other question?
QUESTION: Do you have any injuries among firefighters, any at all?
PLAUGHER: We've had some small. When I say small, I'm talking about not major
types of injuries. But we've had -- to my knowledge, we had four fighters
transport to area hospitals for some minor injuries, and that probably has
changed since I've even been here.
QUESTION: They were not hurt in the collapse?
PLAUGHER: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: They were not hurt -- no one was hurt in the collapse?
PLAUGHER: Not to my knowledge, right.
QUESTION: Is that the only ring that has collapsed?
PLAUGHER: That is the only ring that has collapsed.
QUESTION: Which ring, the E ring?
PLAUGHER: The very exposed ring.
QUESTION: Chief, there are small pieces of the plane virtually all over, out over
the highway, tiny pieces. Would you say the plane exploded, virtually exploded
on impact due to the fuel or --
PLAUGHER: You know, I'd rather not comment on that.
We have a lot of eyewitnesses that can give you better information about
what actually happened with the aircraft as it approached. So we don't know.
I don't know.
QUESTION: Have you -- have search and rescue teams made a priority of finding the
black box of the aircraft? Have you gotten to that stage of trying to locate
that at this point?
PLAUGHER: We obviously will, at the appropriate time. But at this particular
time, we're all in the preliminary stages of setting up the further operations.
QUESTION: Can you describe how many firemen have been involved in this, how many
units, or any way that you can, to give us a quantitative estimate?
PLAUGHER: Actually, believe it or not, we do not know. We had just this tremendous
outpouring of help from the entire community, and we had firefighters and
fire units from places that I didn't even know existed, here to help with
the situation. So -- excuse me --
QUESTION: Several states?
PLAUGHER: Oh, yeah. Several states.
QUESTION: Did they come from -- how far?
PLAUGHER: All over Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania.
QUESTION: How many search and rescue people do you have standing by?
PLAUGHER: Okay. We have four USAR teams. Each one of these USAR teams has
a complement -- and the last I was briefed, there were about 60-some people
in each team, so there's four times 60-some of the USAR teams here.
QUESTION: Four search and rescue --
QUESTION: Where are they from?
PLAUGHER: Four search -- the search and rescue teams are from Fairfax County,
Montgomery County; from the Virginia Beach Fire Department; and from a fire
department in Tennessee. And I'm sorry I don't know which fire department
in Tennessee, but it's called the Tennessee Task Force, so it might be made
up of several fire departments out of Tennessee.
QUESTION: Are more coming in, sir?
PLAUGHER: Not at this time. As you might imagine, the USAR teams are fully
engaged in the situation in New York City and other places. And so we're going
to try -- what I've been told is they're going to try to hold it with the
four urban search and rescue teams --
QUESTION: Have you had trouble getting search and rescue teams --
PLAUGHER: No, we have not. FEMA has been fabulous.
QUESTION: Will you be able to assure people that are working in the building that
it's safe for them now to be there, with the smoke that's pouring out of the
PLAUGHER: We will be constantly evaluating the conditions within the -- inside
the Pentagon and working with the Pentagon staff to make sure that it is safe.
QUESTION: What's the special apparatus --
QUESTION: Could you describe the extent of the damage now? Could you describe --
PLAUGHER: The apparatus question was -- we need some very low-profile apparatus
to make it into the center courtyard of the Pentagon, so we can gain access
to some of the roof structures. And because of some very old fire stations
in some communities, they actually do design fire apparatus, with very, very
low profiles, that has the reach capability that we need.
QUESTION: Could you describe the extent of the damage caused by the fire now? I
mean, Corridors 2 through 6 are closed. Is there fire damage now throughout
that -- through all the rings?
PLAUGHER: Not through all the rings, but to the two rings on each side of
the crash site that -- we have some covered walkways and we have fire going
down those covered walkways, that has gone out to those covered walkways and
now going down those corridors.
QUESTION: What about the flooding?
PLAUGHER: Obviously, we're using large amounts of water, and so we are deeply
concerned about how much water damage that we're doing, particularly to the
basement of the Pentagon and other areas. And so we're having that evaluated
QUESTION: How hot is the fire right now, and how hot was it at its worst? Do you
have any figures on that?
PLAUGHER: It's a stubborn fire. And it's not hot, and we're not, you know,
engaged in a fully, you know, roaring fire situation; it's just stubborn,
very difficult to get to and very difficult to extinguish.
The jet fuel fire that I was talking about earlier -- it's one of those things
when you're dealing with a flammable liquid, it's very -- you got to put a
blanket of foam over the top of it to stop it from flaring up.
QUESTION: Where is the jet fuel? Just --
PLAUGHER: We have what we believe is a puddle right there that the -- what
we believe is to be the nose of the aircraft. So --
QUESTION: Where is that? What ring is that, or corridor --
QUESTION: Can you describe the reconnaissance efforts you used initially to determine
PLAUGHER: Okay. We immediately sent crews into the Pentagon upon arrival,
to try to make sure we had a handle on exactly what parts of the building
that we were in. And at that particular time, we were able to do a lot of
search and we were able to do a lot of confirmation of the various parts of
As you might imagine, with the volume of fire that we had, it got continually
worse inside of there, so we had to back out. But early on, we were able to
make quite a good -- what we call a preliminary search of this --
CLARKE: Chief, let me make one point here.
CLARKE: Folks, I had promised the chief he could get back to the job at hand,
so make -- probably the last question for him -- (off mike).
QUESTION: You made a statement last night, a raw estimate of potential casualties
of between 100 up to 800 -- really raw and preliminary, I understand --
QUESTION: Can you give a sense of how you arrived at that figure? And have you backed
off of that today or expanded it, given that -- and it's still raw --
PLAUGHER: What I said last night was, this was a ballpark figure. You know,
in other words, this is what we're looking at as far as for the size of it.
Again, we really do not have any casualty counts at this time. And you know,
if you want to say that, you know, is that still accurate, I would say that
we don't know anything other than it might still be accurate. I mean, wow,
100 to 800? That's huge, but that's the best we can do.
QUESTION: When you say the fire is stubborn, does that mean there are spots of fire
in different portions, or --
PLAUGHER: Up in the roof section. It's hard to get to.
QUESTION: I see. Can you tell me where the fire is now?
PLAUGHER: As well as in the area right where the crash site was.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
QUESTION: So those two areas of fire --
PLAUGHER: That's correct.
QUESTION: -- are still burning.
QUESTION: And sir, have you cut through the roof to prevent it from spreading to
the unaffected part of the Pentagon?
PLAUGHER: We are doing that now.
(Chief Plaugher departs.)
QUESTION: Torie, you don't want to talk about casualties, but you obviously are
pulling together a list of missing and must have at this point some ballpark
estimate of how many people you believe are missing. It doesn't mean they're
CLARKE: Each of the components is doing a roster check. Each of the components
is doing that.
We have preliminary numbers. We do not want to put out the preliminary numbers
until we're more confident of them. As we get the information, we'll put it
And let me make a point of something, which I talked about with the secretary
this morning. We understand how much you need and want information, and we
understand what you're trying to do. We are -- as we get information that
we feel confident about, we will put it out. But we are going to be very careful
about what we talk about and what we don't talk about.
So, as much as I know the desire for information about operations, military
operations, for instance, we're just not going to do it because it's not helpful.
What we're trying to plan now, for instance, is some briefings from the services
in terms of the civil support that is being provided by the military. But
I hope you'll understand. And any questions, more on the family assistance,
again, this is a very, very important priority this morning, that we get out
the information what we're doing for the families.
QUESTION: Can you just tell me where they drove up from? You said the ones who were
involved with the Cole and the --
QUESTION: Torie? Torie, just one more question.
CLARKE: Okay, let Meg answer Andrea's question and then I'll do it.
FALK: Yes, the people who set up the Family Assistance Center in the aftermath
of the Cole drove up from Norfolk, the whole Hampton Roads area, really, last
night. And they're very experienced in this kind of thing, and that's why
we called them in to support us in this effort.
QUESTION: Torie, just one question. Realizing again, to press this casualties point,
realizing you don't know how many people were there at the time --
QUESTION: -- could you give us a round figure on now many workers would normally
be in that area of the building, realizing that construction was going on.
Is it the high hundreds?
CLARKE: No, I really can't do that, Charlie. No, I really -- I really can't
give you that number. I have -- I have --
QUESTION: Is 800 an inaccurate figure?
CLARKE: I just -- I have no confidence in the 800 number, I have no confidence
in any numbers right now. As we get the information, as I said, the components
are doing the roster checks, as we get the information, we'll make it available.
QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of what the secretary is doing today, and what
the Department of Defense is doing to respond to the attacks to the symbol
of American military. I mean --
QUESTION: Torie, when did he leave here last night?
CLARKE: He went -- the secretary last night was over at the White House for
the president's speech and a meeting after that with the president. Went home
late last night, I don't know the exact time, but I know it was well after
10:00; came back this morning sometime between 5:30, 5:45, walked around to
the site again and talked to some of the firefighters and others.
And the day, obviously, is going to be spent working closely with the president
and the vice president and other members of the national security team, working
on, as I said before, taking all the appropriate measures to ensure that the
American people are safe, to ensure that our men and women in uniform are
safe, and putting every effort towards the appropriate actions on those who