Victoria Clarke, Asst. Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
Interview with WBZ in Boston
The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia
September 15, 2001

MITCHELL: Let's turn our attention back to the Pentagon now and the war on terrorism that will be fought by our men and women in the military and the Department of Defense. Joining us live from the Pentagon, Assistant Secretary of Defense Torie Clarke.

Secretary Clarke, thank you for joining us.

CLARKE: Thank you very much. Glad to do it.

MITCHELL: I must ask you, were you at the Pentagon Tuesday morning?

CLARKE: I was.

MITCHELL: Can you describe that terrible moment for us?

CLARKE: Well, the terrible moment was actually earlier at about 8:40, 8:45 when we realized a plane and then a second plane had hit the World Trade Center. And immediately the crisis management process started up. A couple of us had gone into the secretary's office, Secretary Rumsfeld's office, to alert him to that, tell him that the crisis management process was starting up. He wanted to make a few phone calls. So a few of us headed across the hallway to an area called the National Military Command Center. He stayed in his office. We were in these rooms maybe 200 feet away where we felt the concussion. We immediately knew it was something bad. We weren't sure what. When it first happened, we didn't know what it was. But again, all the wheels were in motion. Everybody was doing what they were supposed to be doing.

The secretary was in his office, really not that far away from the side of the building that got hit by the plane. He and another person immediately ran down the hallway and went outside and helped some of the people, some of the casualties getting off the stretchers, etc. When he came back in the building about half an hour later, he was the first one that told us he was quite sure it was a plane. Based on the wreckage and based on the thousands and thousands of pieces of metal. He was the one that told us, the staff that was in the room. So he was really the first one who told us that it was most likely a plane.

MITCHELL: And now Secretary Clarke, four days later as the efforts there continue, describe that for us.

CLARKE: Well, as a matter of fact just a little while ago we were talking about, we had a briefing here in the Pentagon briefing room and we announced that we've already signed a contract with the folks who are going to begin to repair the damage that was done and start the repairs. [ Transcript ] The people involved in this have been extraordinary and I can't tell you the number of times over the last few days I've said to myself and others, as awful as this tragedy has been, what has been remarkable is the example after example of heroism, from people who helped with folks in the wreckage to the thousands and thousands of people who showed up the next day bright and early for work. This place has been operating, continued to operate right through all of this, and already the plans have begun to repair the damage and get up and going again with the building.

MITCHELL: Secretary Clarke, thousands of New England citizen soldiers, citizens all across the country, obviously -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Reserves are on standby at this hour. We hear that some 50,000 may be called to active duty. What more can you tell us?

CLARKE: Well, you're right. Yesterday we announced that we are going to call up, we can call up to 50,000 National Guard and Reserve. [ News release ] Each of the Services is currently reviewing its missions and what the needs are. The Army said in the initial call-up they'll probably need about 10,000 people; the Air Force, 13,000; Navy, 3,000; Marines, 7,500; and the Coast Guard, 2,000.

They will be providing a variety of specific capabilities, if you will. There will be logistical support, there will be help with the casualties and the recovery, there will be support for those who have been, the pilots who have been flying for quite a few hours for the last three or four days. So it's a variety of functions in this initial call-up, but it's an incredibly valuable service. As you know, these days for many people their main contact with the military in the United States is the Guard and Reserves, and they're playing an enormously valuable role.

MITCHELL: And Secretary Clarke, finally, I assume the mood of the Pentagon is upbeat and positive.

CLARKE: It is. It's truly remarkable. From the very first minutes the number of people who rushed into that scene, into the crash site to help the injured and try to get people out, to the fact that within hours everything was functioning, everybody was doing what they were supposed to do.

The next morning, just one small example, obviously security very high, roads around the Pentagon closed down. I can't tell you the number of people who tried to get to work in the morning, couldn't get near the place, would just leave their cars on the side of the road and climbed over jersey barriers and walked up the hills and came to work.

MITCHELL: Just amazing.

Secretary Clarke, I want to thank you for spending a few moments with us.

CLARKE: Thank you for having us do it.

MITCHELL: That is Assistant Secretary of Defense Torie Clarke, joining us live...