Interview with a Pentagon Rescuer: Daniel Nimrod

di Hammer. An Italian translation is available here.

Almost ten years after 9/11, there is the risk that memories of the attacks may begin to fade for many. To help in preserving these memories, Undicisettembre is continuing the series of interviews with survivors and eyewitnesses, who instead have a vivid and often nightmarish recollection of the events.

This is the personal story of one of the people in charge of the Pentagon's medical service, who was in the building during the attack and took part in the rescue operations. His name, published with his permission, is Daniel Nimrod.

One might wonder why it's always the debunkers who post stories of those who witnessed 9/11 directly. The most obvious answer is that stories like Daniel Nimrod's pull to pieces any conspiracy theory and are not useful to the interests of those who make money by selling books and DVDs that profit from the death of almost 3,000 people.

We wish to thank Daniel Nimrod for his kindness and willingness to share his experience.

Undicisettembre: What do you remember, generally speaking, about that day? Can you give us a brief account of your experience?

Daniel Nimrod: The DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic is located just inside the entrance of Corridor 8 in the Pentagon. DTHC is close to the exit that leads to the North Parking area. The plane crashed into the South side of the Pentagon, which is the complete opposite side of where I worked.

I worked in the clinic as the Assistant Supervisor to the Primary Care Clinic. My other duties included being the location trainer to all new military personnel to the clinic due to the fact that we were also the medical coverage to the whole Pentagon and its civilian workers as well as the military occupants. Another of my duties involved being a Team Lead to the Emergency Response Teams. The latter duty would be the reason why I re-entered the Pentagon to search for dying and lost personnel on numerous occasions.

Just to give you a sense of just how big this building is: the Pentagon has 17.5 miles of hallway and is set up like a maze. If you don't know where you're going, you will get lost. If you were to take the telephone wires from inside the Pentagon you could wrap the world 7 times. If you were to build a 2 foot high wall with the bricks of the Pentagon you could build it around the world once. It has its own ZIP code and houses more than 27,000 people in a single day of operations.

The stairwells are the worst. On one floor you'll have a stairwell that goes only one floor up or one floor down. Then one set of stairs will go up only so far and then you have to find another set that completes your journey, the same rules apply for a stairwell going down. As you can see, not knowing how to navigate the Pentagon in a situation like 9/11, with smoke filled hallways that you can't see through would be a nightmare in and of itself. Location training inside the Pentagon was a necessity to our new soldiers not familiar with different areas of operations.

As the Team Lead to the Emergency Response Teams I had to ensure that all of the members of the team knew their job and knew it well. We responded daily to numerous medical emergencies. We ran the gamut on just about anything that could happen in a civilian or military environment. We had elderly issues, pregnancies, cuts, sprains, fractures, heart attacks, strokes, diabetic seizures (the latter almost everyday because one idiot employee wouldn't take his insulin until way too late; he once took out a whole aisle of candy bars trying to get a quick sugar fix before he went into said seizure, he was obviously too late). You get what I'm saying. We did EVERYTHING medical for the Pentagon's employees.

On 9/11/01 I was completing my rounds of my clinic to make sure that all my staff were prepared for the patient inflow we were to receive on that day. I had just completed my rounds when I went to my office and called my wife. I was still sitting at my desk after the phone call when Mrs. Kelly, a civilian medical assistant, came barging into my office to tell me that I needed to watch the television in the lobby area. I went the few paces to the lobby area and watched as the first tower was engulfed in flames. We were trying to ascertain whether it was a small plane or a bigger one. While watching that, we observed the other plane coming in. It collided and penetrated the upper floors and went into a huge explosion. Not one person in my vicinity called it an accident. We knew it for what it was. A terrorist attack. I looked over to my Supervisor, SSG Pernell, and asked "What do you want to bet that we're next?" I had said this in a joking manner but SSG Pernell just got a look in his eyes that said "Shut the hell up!".

It was while we were discussing the fact that one of the towers was leaning a bit when a Department of Protective Services, or DPS, officer entered the double doors from 8th Corridor and came running down the wheelchair ramp in our clinic yelling "Everyone get out, we are under attack!"

Now let me clarify, we were located on almost the exact opposite side of the crash site. Our clinic is underground so we didn't hear or feel any type of explosion. Sorry to disappoint you, but I will only tell the truth.

The Police Officer, having started a panic inside my clinic, left the clinic and returned to his post just outside our double doors. This is the card reader area for the North Entrance.

All the supervisors, including me, started issuing orders to secure the clinic and to make sure all patients made it safely out of their respective areas. It should be noted that just a couple of months prior to this disaster, our clinic had trained for this exact same scenario involving an airplane and a whole lot of casualties. So we obviously knew what to do. All personnel were to immediately grab all medical gear including radios and medical bags and other essential emergency gear because we wouldn't know the severity of the injuries we were to see.

Upon grabbing all items we needed, we were to rendezvous just outside the North Entrance of the Pentagon at the flag pole. From there we were to receive orders from our Commander of what we were to do for this Emergency situation. Our Commander was not present because he was on his way from a meeting at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital to the Pentagon. He would never reach us in time.

While awaiting orders it became clear to us what was going on at the other side of the Pentagon because of all the smoke billowing up into the sky in that direction. It was at this time that a man came running towards us with his skull flap exposed on his forehead. He looked pretty bad and had blood all over his face and uniform. As it turned out, this would not be the worst we would see. This was just the beginning. It became VERY clear that we needed to enact a plan very quickly or risk losing many lives by inactivity. Without waiting for orders to do so, I instructed a medic to attend to the patient at hand and told 3 others to follow me.

As we were running back into the Pentagon's North Entrance we were yelling at the top of our lungs "Medical Personnel, MOVE OVER!" as there were thousands of people rushing out of the doors in a panic. One person in an Air Force uniform panicked as he saw us running back the other way and started yelling "There are people outside the doors ready to shoot us down when we exit the building!" I had to stop and yell at the top of my lungs for his benefit as well as those around him getting that familiar panicked look in their eyes that he was a fucking moron and there was no such thing happening outside those doors and to get the hell out of the way so that smarter people could move past him to safety. I guess it worked because they again started filing out the doors to the North Parking area.

Once again we started running down 8th Corridor to the Center Courtyard of the Pentagon. Upon coming to the Center Courtyard, I looked over at the area of the building between 4th and 5th Corridors and saw the most horrific sight thus far. People were jumping from the 5th floor of the Pentagon and breaking bones when landing, some not so bad and some severely. I could hear the bones as they snapped. I immediately went to assist the medical personnel already on scene. There are other medical clinics located throughout other parts of the Pentagon but I have never been to those clinics and did not know the people I now was assisting.

It was only a short time before I realized there were too few injured and burned being brought to our makeshift medical area and I started getting a feeling. When I looked up at the doors and stairwell to Corridor 5, I got a crazy feeling that I needed to go inside and that others needed me more in that mess than out here with the others that had already been rescued. I looked around and found the eyes of Captain Glidewell and looked again at the stairwell. She said "You want to go in don't you?" I replied "I don't WANT to, I HAVE to." She nodded and told me to take other personnel with me. I looked around but found nobody readily available, so I went anyway.

Now you're probably asking yourselves what I was thinking and what I was feeling? There are many types of fear: biting your nails fear, closing your eyes fear, wetting the bed fear and so on.

These terrorists had one job and they did it well. I was TERRIFIED. I was so damned scared that I was doing the impossible. Why I wanted to risk my life, you may ask. I have no fucking clue other than the fact that it was my job to do so, I really don't know. I felt an urge to get there and get there quick. This urge was more than I can describe and it overrode any negative thoughts I was feeling at the time. The whole time I was thinking "I'm going to die, I'm going to die."

I went to the outside door on the 3rd Floor of Corridor 5 and entered. The smoke was terrible and overwhelming. I smelled jet fuel and burning plastic intermingled with the smell of burnt flesh. I traveled a short distance down Corridor 5 and came upon a horrific sight. There was a man lying on his back shaking his hands back and forth as if in a spasm, he was still smoking as if he'd been on fire. His skin had been blasted off of him and was dangling off of him like type writer ribbons. His uniform was melted into what was left of his skin. It was obvious that this man had third degree burns over the entire length of his body. I went to him and asked him his name. He said "Brian" in a shaky and painful voice. I saw that he was a higher ranking officer and that his rank was that of a Lt Colonel.

I explained to him who I was and that he was in good hands. He said "Thank you". I told him that I had no help and that I was going to have to hurt him to heal him and he said he understood and to go ahead and hurt him. I went to pick him up and his skin sloughed off in my hands. He screamed so loud and with a lot of pain. I laid him back down and wondered what I was going to do at this point. As that thought left my mind I heard two pair of foot steps running down the stairs to our position. I couldn't have asked for a better two people in the whole world. From the left stairwell came the Air Force Flight Nurse, Colonel Davitt, and from the right stairwell came the Navy Flight Surgeon.

They came to my position and asked me what I had learned. I told them that I hadn't really learned anything other than the fact that I was alone and wanted to evacuate the patient because I had no help. I explained the ordeal to them and we decided to treat him on the spot. The only place we could get an I.V. was in his foot so that is where we put it. It was at this time that one of our clinic's ambulances driven by Sgt Nava-Pena arrived. This is an extra long golf cart modified into an ambulance that carries all of our additional medical supplies as well as a gurney and a backboard. I went and got the backboard while Sgt Nava-Pena got the gurney. The backboard made our job pretty easy because now all we had to do was move the patient to his side, place the backboard to his back and reposition him on his back. We picked him up and deposited him onto the gurney. We grabbed all our medical supplies and hurried to get to the North Entrance and then outside.

Once outside we quickly learned there were no ambulances to be had because they had ALL gone to the crash site. We were in a panic at this point as we had NO transportation to get our severely burned patient to a waiting hospital. It was then that I gave the order to commandeer a vehicle and get him to care. I had been a Police Officer in Louisiana at one time and remember being told that at NO time was it okay to commandeer a vehicle in the name of the law. This was different though. This was life or death. I gave the order and we commandeered a Ford Excursion from a Captain in the Navy that was leaving to go home. At first he wouldn't comply until I asked him if he wanted to become a hero or just another statistic of a man that got his truck stolen on 9/11. After giving directions to George Town Medical Center the Captain had taken off. It was later that I'd learned the patient that I'd sent there was the ONLY patient to arrive from the Pentagon and therefore had an extensive medical team at his disposal which contributed to saving his life. I felt VERY good about that.

I had gone in numerous times after that and we'd pulled many to safety but I will not go further because to do so would subject me to night terrors and flashbacks. I am terribly sorry that I can't do this for you but it's for my mental health that I don't.
As far as the nutcases go for the conspiracy theorists. I smelled JET fuel not ROCKET fuel. I saw a set of landing gear in the alleyway between A and B Ring. To my knowledge rockets don't have landing gears, do they?

Undicisettembre: Did you get a good look at the hole before the section of the building collapsed? If so, how wide did it look? Was it, according to you, big enough for an airliner?

Daniel Nimrod: I saw this hole after the collapse due to the fact I was on the inside helping to save dying and lost personnel. However, I did see this "hole" as you call it while and after the crews were removing all of the debris. Yes, I do believe it was big enough for an airliner to have made.

Undicisettembre: Apart from what you've already mentioned, did you see any other wreckage of the airplane on the ground?

Daniel Nimrod: Yes, I did see see bits and pieces but was instructed to leave them as they lay because the FBI were conducting an intense investigation. To pick said debris up would have had severe consequences and I had no time to do any of that anyway. I was so busy doing my job that I could have really cared less about it at the time.

However, later, when I parked my vehicle in North Parking, I noticed an area of the parking area that was cordoned off to allow debris that was removed from the impact area to be sifted through. This area was very large but to give exact dimensions would be ludicrous of me.

There was a stench of dead flesh about the area and seagulls were in the hundreds, I assume because of the missing body parts that became their meal. There was substantial amounts of debris from an airliner that could be seen through the fences. The landing gear I mentioned earlier ended up between two corridors and I cannot remember what those corridors were.

My memory was affected to such an extent as to render me somewhat into an amnesia state. When asked what I'd done to rescue those that I had, I could only recall snapshots of different times and places inside the Pentagon of me in action or of the many wounded and dead. In essence, I had seen such horrific scenes of chaos and death that the shock of seeing these things was immediately temporarily erased from my memory. It was much later, when I started having night terrors, that the events were put into sequential order in my mind. I now have these terrors at least twice a week to remind me over and over again what exactly happened.

Yes, there was debris and yes, the debris was that of an American Airlines passenger jet and yes, I believe the "hole" was big enough to have been caused by an airliner passenger jet.

About two weeks after 9/11, I was returning to the crash site to visit our medical tent that we had put in place for the crews that were still performing their tasks of finding missing persons, body parts or personal effects. While driving my golf cart ambulance to the scene, I was traveling behind a dump truck and noticed a body part protruding from the tail gate of a dump truck. I stopped the driver and advised him of this incident. The authorities were notified and I went about my business.

Undicisettembre: While you were on the impact site, was anyone having any doubts whether an airliner had just crashed into the Pentagon? Did anyone among the first witnesses seriously doubt that an airliner crashed into that site?

Daniel Nimrod: The people that I was around and that had come with me to rescue dying and lost personnel all knew this to be an airliner. The simple fact is that all of the personnel that were with me were either Air Force or Army personnel and we had ALL been around aircraft in one form or another. There was a very HEAVY stench of "JET" fuel intermingled with the smell of burning flesh. The answer to that question is "NO", there were no doubts as to what had hit the Pentagon. We knew that it was in fact an airliner. I guess that answered the second part of this question as well.

Undicisettembre: What's your opinion on the many conspiracy theories regarding 9/11 and specifically the Pentagon incident?

Daniel Nimrod: Oh boy, you're really going to allow me to comment about that? Well, here goes..........

My opinion is this, THEY WEREN'T THERE, I WAS and how dare they think that such a horrible incident could have been a part of a conspiracy! I hear these people all the time and wonder why they don't just go chew on a gun barrel.

When asked about these things in person, I don't reply because no amount of my trying to convince them otherwise works. These are people that need drama in their lives to function on a daily basis. There is photographic evidence of debris that is used against us non-conspiracy theorists. In fact one such photo was used against me about the landing gear being in the alley between I believe A and B Rings. This photo is of a circular hole but shows no landing gear in the alley. I told this man that the photo in question is about 4 to 5 days after 9/11 and the landing gear had already been removed. I had a picture of that same hole with me looking into that hole a distance away because fire was shooting out of it. In said photo you could clearly see the landing gear behind me. I have NO idea where this picture is now and wish I would have put it into safe keeping but there it is.

Undicisettembre: Do you think the country and its people have recovered from the tragedy? Do you feel like the nation is still living in fear, or has it regained its standing in the world?

Daniel Nimrod:A three part question huh? Okay, here goes.

Do I think that my country has recovered from this tragedy? Yes, I do, to a degree. I think that my fellow countrymen and women are living in denial and that they think it could never happen again on US soil. We are a proud nation, but there are so many countries that hate us that I fear it's only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.

The citizens of this nation are not the same citizens that fought in World War II. There is a huge gap in citizens that have pride for their country and those that could really care less as long as their freedom isn't tampered with or taken away. The answer to your 1st question is "Yes", because there are so many people living in ignorance that they don't know how to be afraid of something that could or could not happen.

Do I feel my country is still living in fear? No, I believe my countrymen and women are living in ignorance, not fear. Nobody I know talks about 9/11 anymore, believing that this or something worse could never happen again. Not only WILL it happen again but probably on a larger scale.

I, for one, am ready as one person can be against almost any situation. I've got a survival box ready to go at a moment's notice. I am NOT a crazy lunatic that thinks the world is coming to an end, I'm just ready for an emergency should one occur. There are many words I could come up with on what my country is living in but fear is NOT one of them.