Statement from Michael Garcia
September 11, 2001

It was a beautiful day, I was waiting at my house for the carpet cleaner when the phone rang, it was my friend Josh Goldmark a police dispatcher for the Irvine PD in California. Mike have you seen the news? A plane crashed into the World Trade Center. I switched on the television and there it was, the World Trade Center on fire from an apparent plane crash. I thought what nut could have missed seeing the towers and crashed into something that big? Then I thought that the pilot must have had a medical emergency and that had forced the crash. But then from the right of the screen comes another plane and it was no Cessna, it was an airliner and it crashed into the other tower.

It didn't take me too long to figure out that we were under attack and that I needed to get to the Pentagon where I worked with the Defense Protective Service (DPS) in the Threat Management Branch. I picked up CMSGT Kenneth Walko--the Pentagon first sergeant was also trying to get back--and we raced towards the Pentagon. We could see smoke from the distance as we approached. I told him to grab my digital camera that was in the back seat and start taking pictures of the area.

We jumped out of the vehicle and went to help. CSMGT Walko and I assisted in securing the crime scene and then we entered the building from two separate areas in an attempt to rescue anybody still trapped inside the building. Inside the building the smoke was overwhelming, and with no breathing apparatus we had to exit the building or risk becoming causalities ourselves. We then linked up with the rest of my team, Robert Guzzo and Benny Bailey. I then started to document the rescue effort by police, fire and medical personnel. I took pictures of the crowd that was gathering, in case someone was gathering intelligence of their own on this attack. I was most impressed with the response by everyone. There was no hysteria; everything seemed to be orderly and controlled. Rescuers were responding in an orderly fashion to any and all areas where help was needed. The eight different Fire Departments that responded were doing a terrific job working as a team to control the fire and rescue personnel in the building.

The most impressive thing I saw was the Park Police helicopter and crew flying missions in and out of the area. When the call first went out, they reconfigured their helicopters in 8 minutes to carry litters and were on scene in 3 minutes. They also used their thermal imager to locate hot spots for the fire and rescue teams. I met up with 2 photographers from the Marine Corps, Kevin Rimrodt and Jason Ingersoll and we compared notes and exchanged office numbers so that we could share photographs. The FBI needed some pictures taken from the air and I contacted a military UH-1 team that was standing by. We had Corporal Ingersoll airborne and documenting the scene from the air.

Then, in the midst of all of this, the control center said another aircraft was inbound towards the Pentagon. We had to get the rescue workers and the crowd to a safe area. So we moved them to the other side of the highway away from the building. When the all clear sign was given and the fires had come under control, the FBI took over responsibility and now started to control the crime scene. Evidence collection teams were formed and the debris from the aircraft was collected.

I then concentrated my photography on the Pentagon structure itself, for I knew that the engineers would want them for analysis.

I cannot really describe with words what has happened here at the Pentagon but through my pictures I hope we never forget. What they thought would weaken us has only strengthened us .................. We are forever ........ “United in Memory".

Michael Garcia
Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA)