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Thursday 18 September 2014

Rumsfeld recalls Pentagon attack

Toby Harnden in Washington

Published 10/09/2011 | 05:00

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Donald Rumsfeld and his wife Joyce Rumsfeld pause for a moment of silence after laying a wreath at the Pentagon

Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary at the time of 9/11, has given one of his most detailed and personal accounts of the impact of American Airlines Flight 77 on the Pentagon.

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In an interview, Mr Rumsfeld (79) described how he was in his office, having just been briefed by the CIA about the two planes that had flown into the World Trade Centre, when he felt the building shake and his table tremble. He headed instinctively toward where the explosion appeared to have taken place.

"I went outside and there were little pieces of metal spread all over the grass, and the smoke was billowing up, and the flame was very visible and leaping out of the building."

A dazed lieutenant colonel told him he had seen a plane hit the building and it was at that point, Mr Rumsfeld said, that it "all computed and tied in with New York" and the attacks there.

He grabbed a stretcher and helped carry survivors to where they could receive medical attention. "Once there were people there that could be helpful, they didn't need me and I could get back. I started to pull together my staff."

Before leaving the scene, Mr Rumsfeld picked up a piece of Flight 77 that was several inches long. It is now mounted in his office in Washington.

Some 12 hours after the attack, Torie Clarke, Mr Rumsfeld's press secretary, asked him if he had phoned Joyce, his wife of 47 years, to tell her he was safe. When he replied that he hadn't, she blurted out: "You son of a bitch."

Mr Rumsfeld admitted: "I never did call her. When I got home . . . her comment was that in retrospect she never would've expected me to call. She knew I was busy." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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