On Sept. 11, 2001, at 9:37 a.m., a hijacked Boeing 757 commercial airliner slammed into the west side of the Pentagon, just minutes after two airliners flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. The crash caused a raging fire and the eventual collapse of three of the Pentagon's five rings. The building was evacuated while local Arlington and Fairfax County, Va. and Washington, DC rescue and fire fighter crews arrived to rescue the wounded, search for the victims and battle the fire. There were 184 military personnel, Department of Defense civilian employees, DoD contractors and civilians who perished in this tragic event.
In response to the attack, many military components; federal, state and local governments; and non-government agencies came together to support the families of the victims.
Pentagon Family Assistance Center
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the Army, the Navy and American Airlines set up separate response centers. The Department of Defense quickly consolidated the response efforts under the joint-service Pentagon Family Assistance Center to provide initial crisis intervention support to victims’ families immediately after the attack. The guiding principle in providing services was “to do what was best for the families.”
The final scope of services offered by PFAC to all victims’ families included chaplain support, behavioral health and grief counseling, transportation, food and lodging, financial and legal assistance, casualty assistance, family intake and briefings, child care, medical support, an information hotline, and DNA collection.
From September 2011 through October 2011 alone, PFAC handled nearly 7,000 calls and assisted 170 walk-in families (170 out of the 184 who had a family member killed in the attack).
Pentagon Family Assistance Resource and Referral Office
PFAC staff and families identified behavioral health services, chaplain support, legal assistance and information and referral as key services needed to assist families in moving through their grieving process and reconnecting with the community. In response to this, DoD created the Pentagon Family Assistance Resource and Referral Office as a follow-on organization to provide interim post-crisis services to assist victims’ primary next of kin as they transitioned to their communities. When PFARRO closed on Nov. 1, 2001, the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Office of Family Policy, the individual branches of service and American Airlines reclaimed the mission of seeing to the welfare of the people who suffered such grievous loss on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
Organizations offering support
In Dec. 2001, DoD compiled the names and contact information of the organizations offering support. This report, The Pentagon Disaster Relief Fund Information for Family Support Centers, can be accessed in two formats:
Current efforts focus on using civilian and military community and web-based resources as a means to provide more direct support services to the families.