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At the offices of the AARP, 10 blocks from the White House, reporters who cover the Supreme Court had gathered Tuesday for a briefing on upcoming cases that could affect the elderly. “This case is huge,” said one lawyer. It was about insurance law. A moment later, none of it mattered. AARP’s spokesman interrupted the discussion to announce that a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon. Given what he called “the New York situation,” he said he expected the AARP building to be evacuated immediately. Everyone else in downtown Washington, D.C., had the same idea. Outside, puzzled and agitated workers began streaming out of buildings, many dialing and redialing cell phones that were not working. Others carried radios, occasionally telling passersby the latest news. Rumors flew. One woman said a bomb had gone off on the Mall, another at the Capitol, yet another at the State Department. One woman suggested that the bomb at the Mall was actually a misfired missile that was supposed to protect the White House in case of an attack. The news that one of the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed seemed just as impossible to believe, yet that became the only established fact via the radio or TV reports. Cars began filling the streets, making it difficult for police cars and ambulances to work their way through the streets. “I can’t close the street myself,” one on-foot D.C. policeman was overheard saying into his radio. Stuck in the growing traffic jam, a driver cried as she listened to the news. TERROR STRIKES The nation’s day of terror began about 8 a.m. on the East Coast, when American Airlines Flight 11, scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles, was apparently hijacked soon after takeoff. Less than an hour later, at about 8:50 a.m., the airliner, believed to be carrying 81 passengers and 11 crew members, struck the north tower of the World Trade Center on the southern tip of Manhattan. About 18 minutes later, a second passenger plane, believed to be United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767 that held about 65 people took off from Boston bound for Los Angeles, flew into the south tower.About 9:50 a.m., the north tower collapsed to the ground. Forty minutes later, the south tower, too, crumbled into rubble. At about 9:30 a.m., nearly 200 miles south of Manhattan, a large airliner, according to eyewitnesses, crashed into the Pentagon in Northern Virginia. Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 that took off from Dulles Airport in Virginia and was slated to land in Los Angeles, was the plane that struck the Pentagon. The plane was believed to be carrying 58 passengers and six crew members. The impact collapsed a portion of the so-called Army Corridor, which ran the length of one side of the five-sided building. There were an undetermined number of casualties. After the apparent attack, the Pentagon, which normally contains a workday population of about 24,000, was evacuated, as were all other federal buildings in the nation’s capital, including the White House and the adjacent Executive Office Building, the State Department, the Justice Department, and the Capitol. Rumors of bomb attacks at other government sites in the federal District of Columbia proved to be unsubstantiated. United Airlines reported that another hijacked airliner, Flight 93, which took off from Newark, N.J., en route to San Francisco, reportedly crashed near Somerset, Pa., about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. In response, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights nationwide. International flights with U.S. destinations were diverted to Canada. President George W. Bush, after learning about the attacks, cancelled a planned appearance in Florida but did not immediately return to Washington. After a stopover at an airbase in Louisiana, where he characterized the crashes as “apparent terrorist attacks” and vowed to “hunt down and punish” those responsible, Air Force One took off for a safe destination. Said Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., “This is the second Pearl Harbor. I don’t think that I overstate it.” Award-winning historian and author David McCullough was one of those on the streets of Washington Tuesday. “We’re not used to being attacked on our own ground. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Civil War,” said McCullough, who was in D.C. for last weekend’s National Book Festival. “Suddenly you wake up this morning and it’s different. And it’s different forever.” FEDERAL COMMAND CENTER As news of the airline attack on the World Trade Center reached D.C., senior Justice and FBI officials gathered at the FBI’s command center, known as the Strategic Information Operations Center, located deep within FBI headquarters at 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. The Justice Department building, across the street on Pennsylvania Avenue, was ordered evacuated. An FBI spokesman said that the Bureau would not be making any public statement on the attacks for the time being. Witnesses said the FBI building was being guarded by police officers carrying automatic weapons. A former high-ranking Justice Department official with the Clinton administration said “the crisis response from Justice Department and the FBI depends on the level of threat. There are all kinds of contingency plans.” Since the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the Justice Department and the FBI have dedicated massive resources to repelling domestic terrorist attacks. Those preparations seemed to reach a fever pitch in the year 1999, with the approach of the millennium celebrations, when several purported terrorist plans were thwarted by government agents. “This was something for which we went through of lot of drills in anticipation of the millennium,” the former DOJ official said. “We had good intelligence that turned out to be right. The old-hands people expertise.” “This clearly was the threat that we were most concerned about,” the official said. “This was the worst case scenario.” The official said that information gathered on planned attacks before they happen is the most effective way to combat domestic terrorism and added about Tuesday’s attacks, “that is where the questions will start to be asked. What was the intelligence?” COURTS IN RECESS At 9:55 on Tuesday morning, D.C. municipal attorney Carl Schifferle was responding to a question from Judge Judith Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in a relatively routine sex-discrimination appeal. A clerk appeared and walked over to Rogers with a note. Rogers looked at the note briefly and passed it to the most senior member of the panel, Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, who immediately announced, “We’re taking a short recess.” The note brought the judges the first word on the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center in New York, said solo Gregory Lattimer, who represented the appellant in the case before the court. Less than a minute later, the court announced abruptly that arguments were cancelled for the day and that all attorneys were to leave the building. “We had no idea why,” said Lattimer. “We found out later what had happened.” Lattimer had finished his initial argument in the case, the first of three on the docket for Tuesday, and Schifferle was almost finished as well. Former D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Harry Edwards said he assumed decision-making responsibility for the appeals court, because Judge Douglas Ginsburg, the circuit’s new chief, was across town at the meeting of the Judicial Conference and was unable to communicate by cell phone because of heavy calling volume. “I told the circuit executive to tell anyone who wants to leave that they can leave,” said Edwards. “But the building was swept for security, and it is secure.” While most public business screeched to a halt, the courthouse in D.C.’s Judiciary Square was actually not evacuated at that time. A naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens took place as scheduled on the sixth floor in the Ceremonial Courtroom. U.S. District Chief Judge Thomas Hogan decided to close the trial court at 11 a.m. Nearby, D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King III closed down the D.C. courthouse shortly before 11 a.m., in part to free up D.C. police officers and U.S. Marshals to assist with emergency and security efforts in the city. The D.C. court system has roughly 70 federal marshals in the courthouse on a daily basis to protect judges and monitor holding cells. According to D.C. court spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz, the public was evacuated by 11 a.m., and incarcerated defendants were removed from the premises shortly thereafter. In Northern Virginia, state and federal court officials moved swiftly to close premises. The federal courthouse in Alexandria was evacuated around 10:30 a.m. Shortly after 11 a.m., three armed guards, one in a flak jacket, stood outside the entrance. They were the only people visible. In the state courts in Alexandria, both the clerk’s office and judicial chambers confirmed that a memo had gone out encouraging any personnel affected by the events to leave. The courthouse was later closed, as were court facilities in Fairfax County. THE JUDICIAL CONFERENCE At the time of the Pentagon blast, the Judicial Conference of the United States, whose members include Chief Justice William Rehnquist and 26 other federal jurists from around the country, was convening at one of its semi-annual meetings at the Supreme Court on Capitol Hill. The meeting was quickly disbanded and visiting judges left for their hotels, according to a spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Jan Horbaly, clerk and circuit executive of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, was at the Thurgood Marshall Building on Capitol Hill, attending a meeting of other circuit executives as part of the conference. Horbaly said the meeting was about to start when Norman Zoller, the executive from the 11th Circuit, walked in and said he’d just heard two planes and crashed into the World Trade Center. “People were taken aback, stunned,” said Horbaly. “I know there were people on the phones calling their courts.” Horbaly headed back to the Federal Circuit, walking down Pennsylvania Avenue from Capitol Hill. He passed dozens of police cars, fire engines, and ambulances, but could not get near the court because armed uniformed secret service agents had closed off the area. J. Harvie Wilkinson III, chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, called to inform his chambers in Charlottesville that the meeting was disbanding, according to one of his staff members. He said he was trying to leave Washington and it was not clear when or where the meeting would be reconvened. The chambers of 8th Circuit Chief Judge Roger Wollman and 11th Circuit Judge R. Lanier Anderson III also heard from their judges, who were returning to their hotels. The Supreme Court building was evacuated in the hour or so after the attack. A spokesperson there would not discuss the whereabouts of the justices, which is customary. DOWNTOWN IN CHAOS In downtown D.C., law firms, lobby shops, and national organizations were caught up in the chaos. One of the most anxious law offices in Washington was the D.C. outpost of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. Robert Rubenstein, the director of administration at Sidley’s D.C. office, said his firm’s extensive offices in 1 World Trade Center “no longer exist.” The firm had recently leased an additional floor in the 110-story World Trade Center, and had begun moving in lawyers from another office in New York. Paul Moates, a D.C.-based member of the firm’s executive committee, said about 320 attorneys and a “very substantial” number of support staff worked on the 56th through 60th floors of the North Tower. Early in the day, the firm’s D.C. office had received “unconfirmed reports” that everyone had been safely evacuated. “But I’m watching the same things you are right now,” Moates said grimly, referring to television coverage of the wreckage. “It strikes me as credulous to believe that everyone got out. We’re hoping and praying they did.” Covington & Burling stayed open during the day on Tuesday, according to one partner, who said that employees remained in the firm’s building more for security concerns and to wait out transportation difficulties than for any other reason. The firm’s New York office was far enough from the World Trade Center that it was not directly affected by the attack. But the pall of the attack still weighs. “I assume that there, like here, it’s difficult to get work done.” In the D.C. office, while some employees tried to work, most were either watching news on the television in the cafeteria or standing on the firm’s rooftop deck looking at the smoke from the attack on the Pentagon. DEFENSE LOBBYISTS ANXIOUS Perhaps no lobbyists felt the impact of Tuesday’s attack more than those who specialize in defense work. Many are long-time military men with friendships that started in the heat of battle. News of the American Airlines flight’s dive into the Pentagon left many trying to contact friends and predicting the military and political aftermath. One Pentagon employee, after clearing out from his office in the C-wing, walked across a bridge spanning the Potomac to see friends at a K Street defense firm. “We evacuated the building, first into the center courtyard and then to the parking lot,” said the DOD employee. “When we got into the corridor, people were coming from the E-Ring, where I think the plane hit. They were covered in smoke and soot, some bleeding, a few burn victims, and some with severe lacerations. “People in our corridor even ran into that thick, acrid smoke to find people. It was an unbelievable act of heroism. “I’m a little shaken up right now,” he said, still in disbelief. “It was like a Pearl Harbor.” Michael Herson, a former Pentagon employee who now runs AmericanDefense International, said he made sure his wife was successfully outof her office on Capitol Hill and then started phoning contacts at thePentagon. “I’ve got a lot of friends in that building and I’m justwondering if they’re okay.” Herson is one of dozens of embattled defense lobbyists who have spent the last few months pleading with Congress to allocate more money for defense spending. He predicts that the attacks will change the focus of the appropriations process. “No more talk about balanced budgets and dipping into social security surpluses,” said Herson, who was a special assistant at the Pentagon during the Gulf War. “We need money; we need action; and we need it now.” Adds Herson: “This was a huge intelligence failure. We’ve been relying so much on sophisticated devices and not enough on human intelligence. This was a declaration of war.” Meanwhile, the defense lobby shop Ervin Technical Associates, which is located three blocks from the Capitol on the House side, served as a stop-in point for displaced Hill staffers. ETA’s Elizabeth Sharp said staffers came by to call family members cell-phone lines were for the most part dysfunctional one of their five television sets. “It was a pretty chaotic scene running out to the Capitol,” Sharp said, while jets flying above her building occasionally drowned out her voice. “We’re probably going to sit tight because people keep coming down anybody needs a phone. Our space is good for people to use.” But many staffers chose instead to pull in at Bullfeather’s, the popular watering hole located two blocks from the Cannon Office Building. “A lot of the staffers have ended up there,” said Sharp. VIRGINIA BATTLEGROUND C. Irvin McClelland and his colleagues were gathered in an office at their law firm in Alexandria, Va., watching images of the burning World Trade Center when they felt and heard the effects of a plane crashing into the Pentagon, less than a mile away. The crash could not have been much closer to McClelland’s firm, the 75-lawyer patent boutique Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt. The firm is the nearest, but far from the only, law firm in the Virginia suburbs near the Pentagon. James Schroll, a partner at Arlington’s Bean, Kinney & Korman was heading to the federal bankruptcy court in Alexandria, listening to news of the blasts on the radio when he was startled to see the secretary for U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Mitchell standing in the street, telling lawyers to go home. A few minutes later, as he was talking to another attorney, a woman emerged from her home with a cell phone in her hand. She walked up to Schroll and the other lawyer, and said her husband had been on the plane. “We just happened to be standing there,” said Schroll. “She just needed to tell someone.” Frank Salvato, a criminal defense solo in Alexandria, said soon after the blast he saw “a huge billowing cloud, dark grey. I can see the smoke from my office here in Old Town. You can’t even believe what’s going on.” A few miles away in Tysons Corner, Va., Mike Flemming, managing partner of the 80-lawyer office of McGuireWoods, said his people were staying put. “We’re at work here at Tysons Corner because it’s as safe a place to be as any.” Bank of America closed buildings across the country, meaning McGuire’s offices in New York and Charlotte were shut down. Hunton & Williams also has offices in BofA buildings, both in Atlanta and Charlotte. A top partner there refused to speak on the record on Tuesday morning, but said that the firm was hastily searching travel records to see if any Hunton & Williams personnel were scheduled to fly on Tuesday. He later said none were scheduled to be in the air from Dulles. Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of Virginia Frank Dunham was in a meeting at 4601 Fairfax Drive in Arlington, Va., planning the office space for the new public defender’s office in Alexandria. Though Dunham and others could see the black billowing smoke from the explosion at the Pentagon and were shaken by the morning’s events in New York, they went on with the meeting. But midway through, a voice came over a loudspeaker ordering them to leave. “There had been a threat,” Dunham said. “And we had to evacuate the building. We walked 11 floors down and emergency vehicles were already there.” Dunham didn’t know any other details, and a spokesman for the Arlington County Police Department also had no information about the threat. Lisa Tomasetti, an associate in the Northern Virginia office of Shaw Pittman, said word spread quickly through the office and the firm. She said lawyers and staffers gathered in “the pit,” a space often used as a lunch room where “a jam-packed crowd” watched the news on TV. She said the firm moved quickly to close offices in New York and Los Angeles, while the Northern Virginia office was on “liberal leave,” meaning people were free to go home if they chose. The New York office will also close on Wednesday. “A lot of the people who work in the office have really strong New York ties,” said Tomasetti. Northern Virginia resident John O’Keefe was one of the commuters who witnessed the attack on the Pentagon. “I was going up 395, up Washington Blvd., listening to the news, to WTOP, and from my left side saw a silver plane I immediately recognized it as an American Airlines jet,” said 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.” Like O’Keefe, Jeffrey Taylor, a lobbyist with the D.C. office of Barnes & Thornburg, was driving to work. He was listening to news reports of the attacks on the World Trade Center when he saw a plane fly over, but it didn’t register, he said. “It was one of those things, you’re just so preoccupied,” said Taylor. “Then my wife calls my cell phone and says, ‘A plane just hit the Pentagon.’ ” He glanced in his rear-view mirror. “ And there’s the Pentagon, and there’s black smoke and you saw police officers and the blue lights.” Reporting by Kate Ackley, Wheatly Aycock, Otis Bilodeau, Joel Chineson, Deirdre Davidson, T.R. Goldman, Jonathan Groner, Tony Mauro, Jennifer Myers, Jim Oliphant, Rebecca Pollard, Jonathan Ringel, Siobhan Roth, Tom Schoenberg, and Evan P. Schultz.

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