Senior Connections Senior Connections Nov. 2018 - Page 7

9/11 survivor to speak at veterans dinner MARK MITTEN Correspondent Sept. 11, 2001, retired Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Yantis nearly lost his life when Al-Qaeda terrorists deliberately crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. Just moments before the trag- edy, Yantis and another offi cer had paused for a heated discussion in the exact location where the plane would impact the building. Yantis, an Army major at the time, was in the midst of a three-year assignment to the Pentagon, in the role of Deputy Chief of the Media Relations Division. It was his job to communicate routine in- formation to the media in an offi cial capacity, on behalf of the Army, such as investigations, court martials, and all Army-announced deaths. “If a soldier died in training or later in combat, we would do the death announcement,” Yantis ex- plained. “That was always a zero-mistake area, you had to be right. You had to do things with timing and compassion.” That particular morning, Yantis emerged from a regular-scheduled morning meeting and began hearing news reports. A plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. “We all had little TVs on our desks to monitor the outside news,” Yantis recalled. “I made some phone calls in the New York and New Jersey area to make sure the Army elements [there] were aware of what was going on. And then at 9:03 a.m., like millions of other Americans, we were watching what was unfolding when the second plane struck. It was right then that I knew, this is not an accident. It was a deliberate attack on somebody’s behalf.” Another Army offi cer, Lt. Col. Henry Huntley, asked Yantis to join him at a Domestic Operation Military Support meeting in another location in- side the Pentagon, to discuss the situation in New York City. Huntley was new to the building and was not sure of the exact room location. “With fi ve fl oors, fi ve rings and ten corridors, you have 17.5 miles of corridor and about 20,000 doors that all look remarkably alike. If you don’t know the address of where you’re going, you can wander around a lot.” Huntley was not sure where the DOMS meet- ing was located. They paused on the second fl oor of the outer ring of the Pentagon, between corri- dors four and fi ve. Though they did not know it at the time, American Airlines Flight 77 had been hijacked and was being fl own directly at that part of the building. “We stopped there and I kept asking him, where are we going? What is the address?” Yan- tis stated. Yantis was frustrated, since he knew the com- plexity of the layout. Military protocol implied he should defer to a senior offi cer’s leadership, yet given the terrorist attacks in New York City and the gravity of the situation, Yantis felt compelled to insist on specifi c information. Yantis explained, “At about 9:30, we were ar- guing there between corridors four and fi ve, and I said, ‘Let’s go make a phone call and fi nd out where we’re supposed to be, because we’re late.’ Huntley begrudgingly followed me and we ended up walking into the meeting off of corridor seven [beyond] where the plane impacted.” The plane struck the building right where they had been wandering only minutes before. Yantis is certain they would have been injured or killed if he hadn’t insisted they call for directions. “There were 125 people killed in the Pentagon: 55 uniform, Army and Navy. And then 70 civilians. There were 59 victims on the aircraft, including passengers and crew, and the hijackers as well,” Struggling to understand the severity of the situ- ation, Yantis went outside the building and was stunned by the sight of the damage. He spotted a stretcher, and along with many others, began evac- uating the injured. “The amazing thing was that there was no one telling us what to do,” Yantis said. “It was just men and women, military and civilian, who were taking whatever degree of training they had, and desire to help, and stepping forward to try to make things better.” Eventually, fi refi ghters and other fi rst responders took over the rescue effort, and Yantis was called to the Army Operation Center. He was expected to work on the public relations aspect of the trag- edy, and determine how best to communicate to the media what had happened. There was general confusion, including inaccurate rumors, that Yan- tis and his team had to navigate. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld soon made a “proof of life” press conference, to inform the world that while the Pentagon had suffered a terrorist attack, it was still operational. Yantis served as an escort for Rumsfeld as he was taken to the Pentagon press room. Sept. 12, Yantis returned to the Pentagon at 6 a.m., and continued to help with the situation. He can recall driving there, and from a distance, ob- serving the side of the building where the crash had occured. It was still burning, smoke was in the air, and at that moment, no one knew how many people had been killed or injured. Yantis is a founding member of American Pride, Inc., a non-profit organization that educates the public about the terrorist attacks that occurred Sept. 11, 2001.Though he lives in Crystal Lake, IL, Yantis has ties to southern Minnesota. From 1989 to 1993, he taught at Mankato State Univer- sity as an Reserve Officers’ Training C orps in- structor. Yantis will be the featured speaker at the Third Senior Connections HJ.COM Senior Retired Lt. Col. Ryan Yantis had been standing in the im- pact zone minutes before a hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001. He will be speaking about his experience at the third annal veterans memorial din- ner in Mayer Thursday, Nov. 8. SUBMITTED PHOTO annual veterans memorialo dinner in Mayer Thursday, Nov. 8. Tickets are available for pur- chase, and all proceeds will benefit the Carver County Veterans Memorial and Registry. Third annual veterans memorial dinner Mayer’s 3rd annual veterans memorial dinner Thursday, Nov. 8 will feature special guest speaker Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Yantis, who was at the Pentagon Sept. 11, 2001. The dinner will start at 6 p.m. at the Mayer Lutheran High School Field House, with a silent auction and social hour beginning an hour before. Dinner options are prime rib or fi sh. Tickets are $50, and can be purchased through: • Trivent Financial in Waconia, 952-442-8461; • Stan Heldt, 952-657-2169; • Mayron Taylor, 612-240-8603; or • any other Carver County Veterans Memorial and Registry member. All proceeds will go toward the Carver County Veterans Memorial and Registry. 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