VU Junior Remembers Pentagon Attack

Vanguard University student's 9-11 10Th. anniversary Tribute art
Vanguard student's 9-11 10Th. anniversary Tribute art on display in the Heath building
Image: Katie Dugan

For junior Chelsea Popineau, who was in Washington D.C. when it occurred, the events of that day will forever be marked in her memory.Rewind to that Tuesday morning and you would see ten year-old Chelsea exploring the visitors’ building across the street from the White House. Her father, Phil Popineau, was outside waiting in line to buy tickets for the family to tour the White House.“That’s when my Dad started hearing people say that the World Trade Centers in New York had been bombed,” Chelsea recalled. “No one really knew if it was true, but people started panicking and getting out of line.”

Not fully realizing what was happening, Phil decided to stay in line. That’s when he saw a plane fly overhead. He told Chelsea he remembered thinking that it was odd that the plane was flying in what he thought was restricted airspace. A few minutes later, American Flight 77, holding 58 passengers, four flight attendants, and two pilots, crashed into the Pentagon.

“My dad came running into the visitors’ center and yelled for us to get out of there. I distinctly remember him saying ‘I have no idea what’s going on but history is being made.’”

Her family could not return to their car because the garage was locked down due to the close proximity to the White House, so they were forced to walk around the streets. Secondary explosions from the crash began to go off, and people were running around scared thinking that they were car bombs. Her family did not know where to go. That’s when they came upon a news van and were able to see footage from New York for the first time.

“We stood there in shock,” Chelsea said. “We had been sitting in front of the Trade Centers just two days before. I remember sitting on these large giant metal guard rails; when I asked my dad what they were, he said they were put there after the 1993 bombing so that no one would ever bomb the buildings again.”

Upon arriving they turned on the TV and heard about Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania. Chelsea and her family then came to the realization that the flight had been intended for the White House, and that they could have been a part of an even greater disaster if it hadn’t been for the brave individuals who stormed the cockpit.

“Every time I hear about Todd Beamer and Flight 93, I think about how he saved my life. I even wrote letters throughout the years to his kids, telling them how thankful I was of what their dad had done, but I could never bring myself to send it.”

“I was so sad, and although I was only ten years old at the time, being able to see the effects of that day firsthand is something I will never forget.”

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