Pentagon: Interview with Steven Mondul, Virginia DOT Emergency Manager
The attack on the Pentagon is one of the events of 9/11 that has most fired the imagination of conspiracy theorists. At first their prevailing theory alleged that the building had been hit by a missile or a fighter plane, but in recent years the most popular theory appears to be that an airliner did actually hit the Pentagon, but its path was different from the commonly accepted one.
Leaving aside the ease with which conspiracy theorists change their opinions, Undicisettembre presents here further confirmation that thir theories are only the product of excessively imaginative minds: the account of Steven Mondul, who on 9/11 was the State Emergency Manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation. His words are another refutation of these absurd theories.
We would like to thank Steven Mondul (quoted with his permission) for his kindness and willingness to help.
Undicisettembre: What do you recall, generally speaking, of 9/11? Can you give us an account of your experience?
While en route we received confirmation of an attack as well as requests to return immediately to take charge of response issues. Upon arrival at the Richmond VDOT EOC, I did assume overall coordination of response and recovery for VDOT. For the first day or so, that consisted mainly of authorizing appropriate activity by the Traffic Control Center, including its use by DOD personnel and as the temporary child care center for the Pentagon, and making appropriate changes to traffic patterns to facilitate partial evacuation of Washington DC and emergency activities at the Pentagon.
Undicisettembre: What happened the next days? How long did it take before the situation got back to normalcy?
Steven Mondul: We continued ongoing activities around the Pentagon and attempting to normalize traffic flow in and out of Washington, coordinating with federal authorities and Maryland DOT. There was also pretty intensive interviewing of VDOT personnel by various federal agencies seeking witness information about the incident. Flight activities were suspended for nearly a week, so this threw a heavier load on surface traffic.
The incident also prompted a complete review of VDOT security, which I was put in charge of, and several urgent upgrades to our security were put in place in conjunction with the State Police. To this day things remain different than they were pre-9/11, and I suspect they will always remain so. One would have to redefine “Normalcy” in light of this, but we were back to more-or-less routine operations within the new paradigm in a month or so.
Undicisettembre: Can you please give us some more details? What are the main differences between the current situation and how it was before 9/11?
Steven Mondul: The entire culture around privacy and security has changed. The passage of the “Patriot Act” has enabled a much more rigorous approach to security, particularly in transportation but also infrastructure and even generally, than was ever possible before 9/11. I believe that this change is probably permanent, though some features of it may be modified around the edges.
Undicisettembre: There's an account of yours on the Internet in which you stated that the plane flew over the Smart Traffic Center of the Virginia Department of Transportation on the Columbia Pike. How can you be so sure it was the route that it went? Would you like to elaborate?
Steven Mondul: I personally interviewed several VDOT employees who saw the aircraft go overhead en route the Pentagon. Their statements to me were corroborated by exhaustive inquiries by several federal agencies of many other witnesses in addition to the VDOT employees.
Steven Mondul: Right!
Undicisettembre: Based on what your colleagues said, I guess you can also rule out all those ideas according to which the Pentagon wasn't hit by an airplane but by a fighter jet or a missile or whatever else, right?
Steven Mondul: Yes. All of the eyewitnesses reported an “airliner”, or similar descriptive language, flying overhead. Furthermore there was distinctive wreckage on the ground at the Pentagon which absolutely was from an airliner. Assertions to the contrary are completely unfounded.
Undicisettembre: What's your opinion on the many conspiracy theories regarding 9/11 and specifically the Pentagon incident?
Steven Mondul: I suppose people will always think up conspiracy theories about anything. Look at the JFK assassination! My opinion—well-grounded in facts—is that the official account of events is correct. There was no conspiracy except among the hijackers and their enablers.
Undicisettembre: Have you met any conspiracy theorists and tried to debate them?
Steven Mondul: No. Though I had to step on some overzealous imaginations during the first few days after 9/11.
Undicisettembre: That's striking, because as far as we know conspiracy theories started to spread in 2002 with the book by Thierry Meyssan. What kind of theories did you step on during that few days?
Steven Mondul: I basically had to rein in uninformed speculation about what had happened among VDOT employees. It was very important to allow the investigation to proceed and gather evidence without a cloud of speculation clogging up the process. It was, of course, pretty evident what had happened almost immediately; but it was still necessary not to have speculation from what might be seen as official sources get in the way of the investigation and its results. As you well know, there were bound to be enough unhinged theories flying around under the best of circumstances.
Undicisettembre: The VDOT had traffic monitoring cameras that had a good view of the impact area at the Pentagon; however, according to news reports these cameras weren't attached to recording equipment for legal reasons and therefore they could not provide a visual record of the crash. However, we were wondering if anyone was looking at the output of those cameras at the time and witnessed the crash through them. To your knowledge, did this happen to anyone at the VDOT or elsewhere?
Immediately after the event we did instruct the Traffic Control Center to focus on the Pentagon, but by that time all we could see was the fire, response activities etc. The same applies to security cameras at the Traffic Control Center itself, which were focused at likely security risk areas. I am not aware of anyone viewing the actual crash event through any camera footage from VDOT, and we did look very carefully for such. I do believe there was some very brief and fragmentary camera coverage from a Pentagon camera.
Undicisettembre: Have you seen the recordings of the VDOT and/or TCC cameras at or around the time of the impact, or do you know what they show? While it is clear from what you say that they show no images of the aircraft itself, we were wondering whether they show anything significant, such as the plane's shadow or the reflected glare from the fireball or even the car drivers' reactions, if any, that might provide further visual confirmation of the events.
It would also be very significant if the recordings showed the debris field and/or the full extent of the breach before rescue services arrived and the fire hose jets obscured the view
Steven Mondul: The cameras were focused on the roadway (that was their purpose) at the time of the incident, and thus did not have a view of the flyover. There is a small ridge in between the cameras and the impact point at the Pentagon, thus there was only a view of the smoke plume from the incident recorded after the fact when the cameras were turned towards the Pentagon.. Appropriate authorities (FBI etc.) made copies of the recorded images and studied them exhaustively, with negative useful information resulting therefrom.
Undicisettembre: Since 9/11 security on airplanes has been ramped up. What do you think about these recent security measures? Are they helpful or too intrusive and annoying?
Steven Mondul: I think in general the security is necessary. No person will ever hijack a US airplane again due to the rules for air crew being changed, so I am not convinced that a lot of the TSA scrutiny at gates is entirely justified. I do believe we ought to be doing more “Profiling” to sort out suspicious from innocent travelers for increased scrutiny, rather than treat everyone like they are a maximum potential threat.
Undicisettembre: Are there any conspiracy theorists, or people who have doubts about 9/11, among your colleagues?
Steven Mondul: None of which I am aware.