9/11 at the Pentagon: Like a switch was flipped

On the crisp, clear morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Linda Gooden was in a conference room at Lockheed Martin’s Seabrook, Md., office when she received a call from a friend urging her to turn on the news.

One plane had hit the World Trade Center. As Gooden and her team watched the unfolding chaos in stunned silence, the second plane hit.

“The first reaction in the room was: Was this an accident? Who did it? And most telling of all, why?” said Gooden, who was president of Lockheed Martin Information Technology at the time and is now executive vice president of the company’s Information Systems and Global Solutions division.

The attacks came much closer to home when a third hijacked jetliner plowed into the Pentagon. “I think that’s the moment — almost like a switch was flipped — that the entire team gathered in the room went from watching events develop on television to active participants in an unfolding tragedy,” she said.

Gooden’s primary concern quickly became the company’s 500 employees who were located in the Pentagon. A Lockheed Martin program manager swiftly set up a command and control center in Crystal City, Va., to mobilize all employees and ensure the safety of the workers inside the Pentagon. As it turned out, all 500 were safe, Gooden said. Then the company’s attention turned to protecting computer equipment and restoring the Pentagon’s data network.

Arriving at the scene, “it looked like a normal operation,” Gooden recalled, despite the crime scene tape that restricted access to the building. “Everyone was just really focusing [on getting the work] done.”

What followed were “a lot of inspections and an awful lot of restoration,” Gooden said.

A team of technicians, experts and industry partners, including Cisco Systems and Microsoft, began restoring and repairing data networks, critical commands and voice communications to get the Pentagon’s IT systems up and running again.

In the damaged part of the building, the team had to quickly adapt to a new environment and find new ways to connect IT functions and accomplish tasks. The crews worked diligently as the day unfolded. No one knew if the attacks were over, and there were rumors throughout the day of additional hijacked planes and bombs set to go off in Washington, D.C.

Gooden said she was impressed with her team’s sense of commitment.

“9/11 was the most horrific event we could ever imagine,” Gooden said. “Even as I think about it now, I recall a day, more than any I have experienced, that ran the gamut of actions from the ordinary to truly heroic, and the gamut of emotions from anger toward the terrorists to real pride in our team’s response.”

Read more of Remembering Sept. 11: Disaster and response.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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