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Wilmington man recalls 9/11 from the Pentagon as lead technician

Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - “I can remember it, it was a day almost like today, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was calm, it was beautiful. It brings back a lot of memories, emotional memories,” Douglas Hardison said.

Hardison was the lead technician in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. “20 years ago, I was in the pentagon, I had just reported for work,” said Hardison.

He was born and raised in Wilmington, then moved to the Washington D.C. area. “I worked for the phone company,” which was Verizon at the time. “We had a job to do in the section that got demolished by the plane. We went up, and turned up some service that morning,” said Hardison.

When he returned to his desk, he found a note that read ‘call home,’ and so he did just that. His wife answered, panicked, asking Hardison if had seen what was happening at the World Trade Center in New York. But he hadn’t heard or seen the news just yet. “I turned the television on and it was like we were watching a movie. It showed the second plane hitting the second tower, then they started talking about terrorists,” Hardison recalls.

“So, I looked at my partner sitting down, and I said ‘if they gonna attack, this is one of the places they gonna hit,’” Hardison said. “Probably about 15-20 minutes later there was this huge explosion, and it shook the pentagon, shook where we were.”

Just 60 yards from his office, 1-C 289. “Well, I ran to the door, opened the door, there was debris falling out the sky, black smoke pouring across the building, and I could smell the fuel burning,” Hardison said.

As Hardison’s family watched the events play out from home, Hardison’s son, just 8-years-old, feared that he wouldn’t hear from his father again.

“I went back in and told my partner, I said ‘let’s go, it’s time to get out of here’,” said Hardison.

Hours later, Hardison called home and his family knew he was okay. “I came out at 10 o’clock that night and that’s when it really hit me. The parking lot was lit up just like it was daylight--first responders, everything,” Hardison said. “And I said to myself, this is stuff war is made out of.”

The next morning, Hardison reported to work as if it was a normal day, knowing he had a job to do, but it was anything but normal. He walked through the debris near his office, where the walls were painted black from the smoke, and Hardison described the center of the Pentagon as “a makeshift morgue with body bags out there.”

Hardison also recalled the unity seen across the country on September, 12, 2001, and the days, weeks, even months that followed. He hopes that 20 years later our country starts to see some of that unity again.

Hardison moved back to Wilmington in the Hampstead area a few years after the 2001 attacks, but says the memories of 9/11 are something he won’t ever be able to get out of his head.

“After 9/11, every morning I wake up, I celebrate life, and it keeps me going,” Hardison said.

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