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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
9/11: Marine recalls Pentagon attack

By Sgt. Brandon L. Saunders | | September 13, 2013


It has been 12 years since the devastating attacks on American soil were orchestrated by Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization previously led by Osama bin Laden.

The nation continues to mourn the loss of life, which occurred when the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., which were struck by hijacked airplanes, and United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Penn.

America had been attacked and thousands of families were grief-stricken with the shock and trauma of losing loved ones. Thousands more prepared for the inevitable response of a declaration of war on those responsible. In all, the entire country was gravely affected and the scope of American history has been forever shaped by that fateful day.

Col. Yori R. Escalante, chief of staff, Marine Corps Logistics Command, was at the Pentagon during the attack, which further gave his career, as a decorated Marine officer, purpose and conviction.

Then-Maj. Escalante served as the aide-de-camp to then-Lt. Gen. Robert Magnus, who at the time, served as the deputy commandant, Programs and Resources, Headquarters Marine Corps.

For Escalante, Sept. 11, 2001, began as a beautiful, clear autumn day. He was attending Magnus’ weekly staff meeting for routine operations within the Pentagon when two majors interrupted the meeting to inform the staff that airplanes had struck the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

Magnus immediately educated his staff about the unrest and turmoil in the Middle East and knew immediately that it was an attack.

Escalante was called out of the meeting to discuss other pertinent business with a fellow officer when the Pentagon was hit.

Escalante called his wife and said, “The Pentagon has been hit. I’m OK.”

The words could have been more cryptic than comforting when putting in perspective how many people in the twin towers may have made the same phone call to their loved ones without successfully exiting the buildings.

In the ensuing pandemonium, personnel in the Pentagon immediately evacuated. Escalante’s duty was to stay with Magnus and escort him to the nearby Navy Annex, where Programs and Resources also had an office.

Later, Escalante returned to the Pentagon to assess the damage.

“The courtyard of the Pentagon looked like a war zone,” he said. “Marines in disheveled uniforms were doing their best to help out the wounded.”

The devastating terrorist attack, which occurred on American soil, subsequently led to an ongoing battle against terrorism.

Unlike the 125 personnel at the Pentagon who gave their lives that day, Escalante was able to return unharmed to his family.  He continues to serve and educate others about that day, especially in an effort to remind Marines why they fight.