Huntsville man recounts 9/11 experience at the Pentagon

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The experiences and injuries of September 11, 2001 are felt around the world, but a man who was much closer to home escaped death that day.

Huntsville resident Kirk Hamlet, an Army Material Command employee at Redstone Arsenal, was working at the Pentagon when the plane hit.

“I went in, it was a beautiful, crystal clear, wonderful day because it had been hot before and the sky was just crystal blue,” said Hamlet.

Hamlet first learned of his division chief’s attacks during a morning briefing and left the room.

“I think it was my angels talking to me, but something told me I really had to go out to get this cup of coffee, and I did,” Hamlet said. “I said ‘yeah, I really need to go to the bathroom while I’m here’ and I walked out the door and the next thing I knew was that I was on the sink.”

At this point, American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

“After what felt like an eternity, which I thought was only a matter of seconds or minutes, you would hear people crying, and then crying turned into screaming, and screaming turned into people running in the hallway in front of me,” Hamlet continued.

Hamlet survived the day, but none of the others in the morning meeting did not.

“That day was a matter of life or death, who had to be where,” said Hamlet. “When I think of 9/11, I’ve focused on it for years … why wasn’t my picture there, it should be there because I was sitting right between her and her.”

Hamlet has participated in wreath laying ceremonies and memorial services in Washington, DC for the past 20 years, with the exception of last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was not my destiny to die that day,” Hamlet concluded. “It was my destiny to help.”


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