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Northern Virginia resident John O’Keefe was one of the many commuters who witnessed the attack on the Pentagon. “I was going up Interstate 395, up Washington Boulevard, listening to the radio, to the news, to WTOP, and from my left side, I don’t know whether I saw or heard it first, this silver plane, I immediately recognized it as an American Airlines jet,” says the 25-year-old O’Keefe, managing editor of Influence, an American Lawyer Media publication about lobbying. “It came swooping in over the highway, over my left shoulder, straight across where my car was heading. “I’d just heard them saying on the radio that National Airport was closing, and I thought, ‘That’s not going to make it to National Airport.’ And then I realized where I was, and that it was going to hit the Pentagon.” “There was a burst of orange flame that shot out that I could see through the highway overpass. Then it was just black. Just black thick smoke.” “The eeriest thing about it was that it was like you were watching a movie. There was no huge explosion, no huge rumbling on ground, it just went pfff. It wasn’t what I would have expected for a plane that was not much more than a football field away from me. “The first thing I did was pull over onto the shoulder, and when I got out of the car I saw another plane flying over my head, and it scared the s**t out of me, because I knew there had been two planes that hit the World Trade Center. And I started jogging up the ramp to get as far away as possible. “Then the plane — it looked like a C-130 cargo plane — started turning away from the Pentagon, it did a complete turnaround. “There was nothing to see but black. The whole side of Washington Boulevard was black and on fire. “I lost all sense of time. I think I was standing outside a good 20 minutes or so, and then, it was just 10 minutes until I got to the Memorial Bridge, which was closed, so I went up the GW Parkway and to a friend’s house.”

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