'The Country Really Came Together': Red Crosser Recounts Resilience in Nation's Darkest Days
“I’m very proud of the Red Cross.”
Charles Blake has been with the American Red Cross for almost 40 years, so it’s not surprising he would have pride in the organization. In this case, however, the Southwest and Rocky Mountain Division Disaster Executive is talking about a specific event from 20 years ago.
The then-Senior Director of Emergency Services and International Services for the National Capital Region started the morning of September 11, 2001, meeting with the Chief of the Metro Police, talking about a contract to provide first aid training and other services to the department. That meeting ended when an employee rushed in saying that a plane had crashed into a World Trade Center tower. They rushed around the corner in time to see the second plane hit the second tower on live TV.
“We didn’t realize it was a second plane,” Blake remembers. “We thought it was a replay.”
Shaken, Blake went on with his day, which involved an event away from the K-Street office in DC. He was carpooling with an FBI agent also scheduled to attend that event, talking about the incidents earlier that morning in NYC.
“The FBI agent said, ‘You know, if this is terrorist activity, the next target will likely be the Pentagon,’” Blake said. Four minutes later, he received a call saying a plane had in fact crashed into the Pentagon. They immediately turned the car around to return to the Red Cross office and saw thousands of people running out of office buildings in chaos.