RG 133: Records Related to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks on the Pentagon, 2001-2008
Collection NumberRG 133
HistoryThe September 11th terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York and on the Pentagon in Washington, DC, left an indelible mark on this nation’s history. For residents of the Washington-metro area and of Arlington County in particular, that day was especially difficult as the attack on the Pentagon happened “close to home."
Terrorists hijacked a west coast-bound plane taking off from nearby Dulles Airport and deliberately crashed it into the Pentagon. The Arlington County Fire Department responded quickly to the attack and over the course of three days brought the fire under control, searched for survivors, and then later recovered the dead. The County Manager, Ron Carlee, coordinated the response by fire, rescue, and police personnel from both Arlington and surrounding jurisdictions, and dealt with the media. Over time, Carlee sought analyses of the emergency response to prepare for the future and developed support systems for County employees involved in the Pentagon response.
People from the immediate area and around the country sent letters and thank you cards (most handwritten or homemade) to members of the Arlington County Fire Department in appreciation of their efforts to fight the fire and rescue survivors. Like many places around the country, Arlington County held ceremonies and observances commemorating those who perished and celebrating the heroic efforts by people inside the Pentagon and by the Arlington County Police and Fire Departments.
Scope and ContentRecord Group 133 is primarily made up of textual materials, but also contains photographs and some memorabilia and audio-visual materials. The entire collection consists of 2.5 linear feet and date between 2001-2008, with the bulk of the material dating 2001-2002. This collection has three very different subgroups.
Subgroup 1, Photographs, contain photos of the Pentagon on September 11th and in the immediate days afterwards. Series in the subgroup are for each photographer. For Series 1, the photographs were taken by Michael DeFina on September 11th immediately after the attack and during the two days following. The photos depict scenes ranging from harrowing and heroic (fire crews fighting the enormous blaze) to quiet and eerie (the collapsed building façade or fire fighters resting between shifts). De Fina was a firefighter for the Washington Airport Authority that was called to the Pentagon. Series 2 contains images taken by Diane Kresh, who in 2001 was an Arlington resident and worked at the Library of Congress. At the time she donated these photographs, she was the Director of the Arlington Public Library.
Subgroup 2, Correspondence, consists of thank you cards or letters to the Arlington County Fire Department. Most of the correspondence comes from school children, but there are cards and letters from organizations and from other concerned individuals. The schools involved are from all over the United States, and some are from unidentified groups and individuals.
Subgroup 3, County Remembrance and Response, holds materials created by Arlington County in the days, months, and even years after the September 11th attacks. Series 1 in this subgroup has the County Manager’s working files, which relay his day-to-day itineraries, talking points, and emails, and his reference files, which are reports on emergency response and preparedness in general and evaluating Arlington activities specifically. These documents are an excellent view on how Arlington County government responded to the attack on the Pentagon directly after the attack and how they put together long-term emergency preparedness plans and did outreach to the county’s citizens and employees. Reports on the county’s September 11th activities are in Series 2, After-Action Reports. Series 3 relates to Arlington’s attempts to remember the attacks in ceremonies and memorials. The memorabilia in this series consists mainly of posters, flyers, and small artifacts from the two County-sponsored memorial services held in remembrance of the terrorist attacks. There are also VHS tapes recording memorial services and concerts.
Arrangement and DescriptionRecord Group 133 is divided into three subgroups: Photographs, Correspondence, and County Remembrance and Response. Subgroup 1, Photographs, is arranged by photographer, with each one getting a separate series. Series 1, Michael De Fina, is arranged according to a scheme devised by the photographer. There is a list created by Mr. DeFina in which he describes each of the photographs. This list is located in the front of the first folder for Subgroup 1, Series 1.
Subgroup 2, Correspondence, is divided into three series: Identified Organizations, Identified Individuals, and Unidentified. Series 1, Identified Organizations, contains documents from schools, after-school groups, churches, and other religious organizations. It is filed alphabetically by organization. At the end of Series 1 is a folder entitled Miscellaneous Organizations which consists of identified organizations with a small number of correspondence (usually five items or less). It is arranged alphabetically by organization. Series 2, Identified Individuals, is arranged alphabetically by first name rather than last name because many individuals did not provide surnames. Series 3, Unidentified, contains all items that could not be identified by organization or individual name and is unarranged.
Subgroup 3, County Remembrance and Response, consists of three series. Series 1, County Manager’s Files, are materials from County Manager Ron Carlee. Subseries 1 are Carlee’s working papers. They are arranged in Carlee’s original order and his folder titles are used in quotation marks [“”]. Subseries 2 are reference materials used during the response and are arranged chronologically. Series 2, After-Action Reports, is also arranged chronologically. Any folder titles in quotes are titles retained from the original folders or are the official titles of the report in the folder. This is especially true of Series 2. Series 3, September 11th Remembrance, contains flyers and posters announcing memorial services organized by Arlington County. There are also two “grab bags” from those services containing ephemera, such as a copy of the program for the event, a miniature U.S. flag and a pin. Both series are arranged chronologically. All artifacts and oversized materials have been placed in appropriate housing. There are also several VHS tapes recording different memorial events. Folders with oversized materials have a double asterisk [**] to denote where material was removed and separation sheets added.
ProvenanceMichael T. DeFina, Jr., donated the photographs in this collection in April 2002. Diane Kresh donated her photographs in February 2018. Center for Local History staff picked up the correspondence from the Arlington County Fire Department in the spring of 2002 and picked up the County Manager materials in October 2018.
RestrictionsMr. DeFina retains copyright for all donated photographs. Credit for photograph(s), regardless of the manner it/they is/are displayed, and the copyright holder must be contacted prior to display. There are no copyright restrictions on the other material in this collection.
Related CollectionsFor more information on the Arlington County Fire Department, see RG 170, Personal Papers of James Fought. The Center for Local History conducted oral histories with Arlington County Fire Department staff and other 9/11 reminisces in Oral Histories, Series 5 (VA 975.5295 A7243oh ser.5). Of particular importance is the interview with James Schwartz, who was the Officer in Charge on that day.