[Edit: This was the original post of "Mike Walter Interview" before merge by d] MIKE WALTER
This is a subjective page. In an event of this magnitude the human factor is obviously significant. An eyewitness statement is just that, somebody's personal experience in statement form. It's human and it involves emotions. I did not "grill" Mike and technically analyze any of his comments. I am not neutral in that sense when it comes to this page. I want this to be very clear: I like Mike and becoming more acquainted with him makes me unscientific
. If you can hear his testimony as it is intended then you may benefit from Mike's perspective. This is a stand-alone page. Mike's participation is not an endorsement on his part of any other aspect of this site. It is an opportunity to listen to somebody who was there and learn how it has affected their life since the event.
QUESTION: Can you describe how you became aware of the aircraft? MIKE WALTER:
I will never forget that day, trapped in traffic and then I rolled down the window and heard the sound of the jet overhead. I wasn't surprised. I worked in the USA today building in Roslyn nearby and we were used to seeing a lot of choppers coming to the helipad at the Pentagon and a lot of commercial jets heading to Reagan which is nearby. But for some reason I looked up and saw the underbelly of the jet as it gracefully banked, then I watched in shock as the jet basically lined up the Pentagon in its sights and began to scream towards the mammoth structure. I watched as it continued to dip from the sky, diving towards the Pentagon. There are some trees that are adjacent to 27 the road I was stuck on, so the jet went out of sight momentarily. Then I picked it up as it struck very low into the Pentagon. The wings folded back and it was like watching someone slam an empty aluminum can into a wall. The jet folded up like an accordion. There was a huge fireball. There was the initial shock of what had just happened. All of the drivers seemed to be in a trance. Then suddenly it ended when a woman began to scream, "They just hit the Pentagon, get back, get back." She backed her SUV back and forth until she was able to create a crease and then she sped out of the area on the emergency lane. That's when all hell broke loose as people began trying to get out of the area any way they could, some went forward, and others turned their cars around and drove in the wrong direction. All in an effort to get out of the area.
QUESTION: How did you end up getting interviewed? MIKE WALTER:
I had a choice to make. Did I want to get out of the area and drive into work? That would mean continuing on 27, and then turning into the Pentagon North Parking lot exit. That exit allowed me to swing around and get onto 110 which took me right to work. On a normal day I was merely 5 minutes away. Or I could pull over and park and wait for a photographer to arrive. This would obviously be the story I would cover on this day. I decided to pull over. As I got out of the car and made my way towards the Pentagon I saw pieces of wreckage on the ground. Your natural instinct is to reach down and pick up the pieces and look at them. But I decided against it, because I knew that the wreckage was evidence. So I continued on. I was driven to find a photographer for the station that we worked with here in the nation's capital. I wanted to make sure that they knew I had witnessed the impact and could describe what happened. I finally found a photographer. He had me explain where I was on camera and describe what I had seen. He then directed me to an area where an anchor was beginning to go live. I had to scale a fence and walk quite a distance to get to him. I got to the top of the fence and as I was transitioning to the other side I lost my balance somewhat and managed to cut a huge gash in my right hand before I could finally grab a hold of the chain link fence and get my balance. I still carry that physical scar and the psychological scars of that day. Once I had found the anchor and explained what I had seen the word began to spread that I was a witness. There were lots of witnesses there that day but they had left the area after the attack. I was interviewed by a man from Bloomberg, then John McWethy of ABC news interviewed me, and then the floodgates opened. I was interviewed by people from a variety of print and television outlets. A young producer with CBS asked if I would be on with Bryant Gumbel on the early morning broadcast the next morning. I agreed to do it, and would also appear on the CBC as well the next morning. But it was later in the day after I had spoken with my daughter on the phone that I consented to an interview with Jamie McIntyre with CNN. My daughter had just told me that a number of her friends' parents who worked at the Pentagon were missing. She was very upset, and I had no words to comfort her. Jamie asked a number of questions and I talked about that phone call and how tough the day was.
QUESTION: As you know, a descriptive phrase you used was taken to mean an aircraft didn't strike the Pentagon. How has this affected you? MIKE WALTER:
I don't really remember the questions that were asked that day, I don't really even remember what my answers were. The day became a blur really. But I do remember using a metaphor to describe what happened. I indicated to Jamie that the jet had become a weapon that day. I said it was like a cruise missile with wings. I never imagined for a moment that a statement like that would come back to haunt me over and over again. A French author would come out with a book describing in detail the conspiracy theory and he would use that quote out of context to help promote his conclusions. I was very angry about all of this, and I remain angry about it today. I'm also upset that so many people lost their lives that day and while some people who have written about that tragic day have donated any and all proceeds to the victims of 9-11, he has capitalized on it to make an awful lot of money. His book went on to be a best seller in France. My suggestion, buy "Covering Catastrophe" instead. It was written by the reporters who were there in Arlington, and in New York, and in Pennsylvania. The conclusion in the French book is absurd. I saw the jet; there is no doubt in my mind it was a jet that slammed into the Pentagon. As a result of his book I've been interviewed by both print and television reporters from France, and England. Recently on the anniversary of that terrible day I was once again interviewed for a documentary in Japan on this same issue.
QUESTION: What was your impression of the aircraft and its maneuver? MIKE WALTER:
I don't know very much about aviation. There's an irony to this since my father worked at Lockheed. I have a vivid memory as a child of going to an air show with my father and him describing to me the various makes of the jets. But to me for whatever reason I just have never spent a lot of time trying to discern the differences. I knew it was a big commercial airline. I saw the AA on the side so I knew it was an American Airlines passenger jet. I was surprised at how graceful and slow the banking of the jet appeared to be, and how quickly it accelerated after it had lined up the Pentagon.
QUESTION: When the aircraft flew in front of you, how far away was it at its closet point? MIKE WALTER:
I was stuck in traffic, but by my estimation it seemed as though it was about 8 or 9 car lengths in front of me. It was in the air coming down at a high rate of speed and a steep decline.
QUESTION: Did you see the aircraft from nose to tail? MIKE WALTER:
QUESTION: What do you remember most about it? MIKE WALTER:
I just remember thinking that I have to remember all of this; I have to take it all in. I just remember most that it struck very low into the Pentagon. I also will never forget seeing that AA insignia. I was asked by the FBI agent if I could make out any of the people on board the plane. But that would be an impossibility. It went by so quick, but I am still haunted by what I saw, and the thoughts of what it must be like to be on that plane heading toward sudden death. I have to be honest I suffered from a lot of nightmares in the days and weeks that followed. In one nightmare my boss would give me a mop and I would go up on the roof and start to clean it and then a jet would come slamming into the roof. In another nightmare I would be on the plane, and all of the people would be faceless. There was every variety of nightmare that you could imagine. And if I was alone in a car traveling and stuck in traffic I would replay it in my mind over and over again. I'll never forget one incident when a big 18 wheeler was passing and one of its tires blew out, and I remember jumping. It was a tough period.
QUESTION: Do you recall any turbulence or wind force associated with its passing? MIKE WALTER:
I don't recall any turbulence or wind force.
QUESTION: Did you see it hit anything prior to approaching the Pentagon? MIKE WALTER:
There were periods where it seemed like the pilot was trying to stabilize it, I believe that may have been when it hit one of the light poles. But I don't remember it hitting anything early on, although I am sure it must have hit one of the light poles right around the area where I was. Like I said to you yesterday you tend to second guess yourself because so many people have said so many different things. I do feel like it struck something near the point of impact, because I kind of remember sparks or something and the jet kind of wobbling or whatever right before impact.
QUESTION: How far away would you estimate that you were from seeing the aircraft hit the building? MIKE WALTER:
I'm not good with distances. I was quite some distance away.
QUESTION: Can you describe what you recall of the actual impact? MIKE WALTER:
I just remember that it seemed like slow motion. Again the thing that seemed so remarkable to me was just how this gigantic jet just folded up like a little tin can. It was truly amazing. I also remember the sound of the explosion, and the fireball, and then of course once I was out of my car and closer I heard the other explosions which we talked about yesterday. [My note: On the audio portion of Bob Pugh's video you can hear muffled explosions minutes into the event, this is what is being referred to.]
QUESTION: After you parked your car and approached the Pentagon on foot what was your impression of the debris? MIKE WALTER:
I didn't see a significant amount of debris. I just remember two things about this. One was the piece of wreckage I described earlier and the instinct to pick it up. Then I remember at some point later in the morning seeing a guy holding a piece of wreckage next to his head with the Pentagon in the background smiling and having his picture taken. I can't describe for you the rage I felt. I unleashed on the guy and told him that he had no business doing what he was doing and that this was evidence and he should have just left it where he found it. He then said oh well there's a guy collecting the stuff right now, so he just walked it over to this guy. I felt like the collection of the evidence was pretty disorganized. But it was a very fluid situation, and no one really knew what was going to happen next. After all there were two attacks in New York, so naturally people were jittery and concerned about another possible strike here. There was just an awful lot of chaos.
QUESTION: Were you ever asked any questions by officials at the scene? MIKE WALTER:
I spoke to a military PIO [Public Information Officer]. He told me that the FBI wanted to talk to me. I gave him my card with my number on it. This is when I began crying about what I had seen. I was pretty embarrassed by this. I've witnessed a lot of bad things in my career. Shootings, fatal fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, and I've also been in a war zone. So I was really surprised at this response. He hugged me, and told me that it was okay and that I was in a state of shock. If I remember correctly the agent called me later that day and left a message. I called her back and talked to her briefly. The next morning two agents interviewed me at work.
QUESTION: Have you ever been approached by people with theories that contradict what you saw? MIKE WALTER:
I've only been interviewed by people about this as I described earlier. In fact it seems like I do more interviews about the conspiracy now then I do the attack. It's strange.
QUESTION: Is there anything else you would like to add? MIKE WALTER:
I know a lot of people have different theories about what happened that day. I don't have any theories, I just have two eyes! I saw what I saw. It was an American Airlines jet that slammed into the Pentagon that day. I have nothing to gain or lose by saying this. The truth is the truth, that's what happened. The reason why I've consented to this interview is because I've learned a lot as a result of that day. I'm a guy who grew up reading books, newspapers, and magazines. I'm a guy who watches television and listens to the radio. Those are the mediums that I'm comfortable with and understand. I've written for radio, TV, newspapers and even contributed to two books. Having said that, I understand the power of the web, and did before 9-11. But it really hit home afterwards. So many websites have critiqued my words, and added meaning to statements I made by taking them out of context. Some how I've been trapped on the World Wide Web and my words have been used to promote this theory or that. I've been criticized and critiqued. I'm not sure what the theory will be on this website, in fact I don't really care what it is. All I know is someone was kind enough to ask me to answer their questions instead of just jumping to conclusions, and for that I thank you. I know people tend to gravitate towards conspiracy theories, I can't stop them. People will believe what they want to believe, but I know what I saw that day. [END]
This interview with Mike was in an email format on 1/17/05. The phone calls did not cover anything critical that isn't in the interview. I ask that any quotes from this interview please be used in context and with the knowledge that it was subjective on my part and not intended as a fact-finding statement.http://www.pentagonresearch.com/mike.html