Huntsville man recounts 9/11 experience inside the Pentagon

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The experiences and hurt from September 11, 2001, are felt worldwide, but one man much closer to home escaped death that day.

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

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

Hamlet first learned of the attacks from his division chief during a meeting that morning and stepped out of the room.

“I guess it was my angels talking to me, but something told me that I really needed to get out to get that cup of coffee and that’s what I did,” Hamlet said. “I said ‘yep I really need to hit the restroom while I’m here’ and I turned out of the door and the next thing I knew, I was on top of the sinks.”

That’s when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

“After what seemed like an eternity later, which I think was only a matter of seconds or minutes, you started hearing people crying, and then crying turned to screaming, and screaming turned into people running in the hallway outside where I was,” Hamlet continued.

Hamlet survived the day, but everyone else in the morning meeting did not.

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

Hamlet has attended wreath laying ceremonies and memorial events for the past 20 years in Washington, D.C., except for last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It wasn’t my destiny to die that day,” Hamlet concluded. “It was my destiny to help.”

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