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"I was so scared I thought it was coming after me and just ducked for cover," said Wyatt, a 1999 graduate of Mary Washington College who was walking to his federal job when terrorists struck at the heart of the nation's defense yesterday morning.
"It was going so fast and it was so low," he said, standing on Army-Navy Drive. "The only intelligent thought that came into my head was, 'Oh my God, they hit the Pentagon.' I could then hear cars squealing all around and people were just stunned."
After the plane struck the west side of the famed five-sided building, thick black smoke billowed from a huge crater as fire raged within.
Inside the Pentagon, Connie Morrow was talking to co-workers in the fourth floor of the Pentagon's Air Force Logistics office at the time of the crash about 9:30 a.m.
She said employees had been put on heightened alert after the World Trade Center attacks.
"We were trying to figure out what our next move should be," Morrow said. "Then, we heard an explosion and people started racing for the doors. There was a lot of fear, but it wasn't total chaos."
Morrow, who rides her bike to work from her Arlington home, said it took a long time to be evacuated from the reinforced concrete building.
"It was just horrible," she said, afterward standing a few blocks from the Pentagon embracing a friend. "And people were trying to get through on their cellphones to notify family, but nothing was working."
Others who witnessed the mayhem around the Pentagon yesterday said it felt like a scene from the movie, "Independence Day." Only in this case it was the Pentagon that erupted into flames, not the White House.
Casualty estimates ranged from 100 to as many as 850.
"This is worse than any disaster movie," said Arlington resident Rob Schickler, who was standing on a hill near the Pentagon with a crowd of onlookers. "You might be able to expect one plane, but four planes hijacked? I would never have imagined something like this."
Emergency vehicles surrounded the Pentagon, sirens could be heard wailing from all directions and Army helicopters buzzed overhead. Air Force F-16 fighter jets ripped through the air. Uniformed officers scurried away from the damaged building, hopping onto buses or leaving on foot.
The hill where people had gathered was evacuated after FBI officials warned that another hijacked jet could be on its way toward the Pentagon.
"That scared all of us, people just started running," a bystander said.
Scott Perry of Spotsylvania County heard a plane's engines rumbling above the Navy Annex building where he works, so he looked out his window, which faces the Pentagon.
"[The plane] was coming straight into the wedge," Perry said. "I saw it crash. There was about five seconds of disbelief, and the next thing I heard was, down the hallway, a friend of mine screaming."
Windows shook, he said, and people started pouring out of the Navy Annex. They stood around outside for a while. Then, fearing car bombs might go off, Marines ordered them into nearby Arlington Cemetery.
Because the cemetery gates were locked, Perry said workers had to scamper over a three-foot stone fence to get in.
"We were all, hundreds of us, milling about in the cemetery, watching the smoke billowing up out of the Pentagon," Perry said.
The sun was shining. An American flag stood straight out in a light wind. Armed Marines stood on the rooftops of nearby buildings.
"We were saying to each other, 'I never thought I'd see what I'm seeing today,'" Perry said.
The scene was surreal and frightening. The workers worried about their friends in the Pentagon. And they worried the attacks weren't over.
"Every time we heard an airplane or helicopter, we kind of looked up at the sky to make sure it wasn't headed for us," Perry said.
After a couple hours in the cemetery, Perry was allowed to get his car and leave.
"There's a picture in my mind that probably won't go away for a long time," he said.
Navy Lt. Commander Bill Jones wasn't at the Pentagon yesterday--but he was supposed to be.
Jones, who was formerly stationed at Dahlgren, works near the part of the Pentagon that was struck, but he was assigned yesterday to escort some contractors to a nearby building.
"There, but for the grace of God, I would have been in the building, too," said Jones, who attends the Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg.
Jones, 31, said he and the group felt the building shake then ran to the window. He saw a massive cloud of black smoke and bits of paper and other debris falling from the sky above the Pentagon.
As the shock wore off, he said he's eager for the culprits to be apprehended.
"You don't do this kind of stuff to the United States," said Jones, "and expect to get away with it."Staff reporter Jonathan Hunley contributed to this story.