Looking Back: 9/11—two decades ago

Veterans Memorial Monument at the Edmonds Cemetery.

Twenty years ago, when American Airlines Flight No. 77 was hijacked by five terrorists and deliberately flown into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters in Washington, D.C., one of the victims was 52-year-old Sgt. Major Larry Strickland, U.S. Army, who was looking forward to enjoying the leisure of retirement in a few days.

Larry Strickland grew up in Edmonds, and was a 1967 graduate of Edmonds High School. Sgt. Major Larry Strickland is among those local victims of war and terrorism honored on the Veterans Memorial Monument located at Edmonds Memorial Cemetery. His complete story appeared in My Edmonds News on November 8, 2014. 

9/11 – a time remembered

It was Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2001, and even though technically it was his day off, Sgt. Major Larry Strickland was at work as usual, when the conference room at the Pentagon where he was attending a meeting, took a direct hit from the hijacked airliner.  It was days before his body was found and removed from the wreckage.

With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this month, the Smithsonian magazine for September 2021 published a timely article, which included an account by Lt. Col. Danny Pummill, who was an eyewitness to the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

Danny Pummill, a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, has some vivid memories of that morning in September—one that at first seemed like any other morning.  After serving as a battalion commander at Fort Riley, Kansas, he was the new kid on the block at the Pentagon, and had become accustomed to a bit of hazing.

That Tuesday in September, he was attending a meeting with Gen. Timothy Maude and others in the conference room located on the west side of the Pentagon. One of those in attendance was Sgt. Major Larry Strickland.

The group soon found they were three copies short of the briefing papers needed for the meeting.  Strickland, the well-organized, go-to person, offered to get more copies. However, the general had other ideas and stopped him. The general then instructed the newcomer, Lt. Col. Danny Pummill, to make the copies.

Away from the conference room and standing next to his desk, Lt. Col. Pummill was gathering the papers, when suddenly there was an explosion, and the roof and the walls caved in. With black smoke and fire in the hallway, he saw that those in the room he had just left were trapped.

Gen. Maude, Sgt. Major Strickland, and everyone in the conference room died that morning, Sept. 11—a morning that earlier had seemed so ordinary.

— By Betty Lou Gaeng

Betty Gaeng is a former long-time resident of Lynnwood and Edmonds, coming to the area in 1933. Although now living in Anchorage, she occasionally writes about the history and the people of early-day Lynnwood, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. She is also an honorary member of the Edmonds Cemetery Board.

  1. Thank you for this story, I was unaware of this hometown connection to that day.

    I’m sure we can all remember where we were when the world stopped turning that September day. I was a resident volunteer firefighter on Bainbridge and worked during the day at a civil engineering firm near Kingston. I didn’t go to work that day, thinking I could be of service to BIFD if Seattle was next and off-duty SFD personnel usually on the island during the day were recalled to the City.

    One year later I was back east in grad school attending a Building Fire Safety lecture by a professor who had been part of the team through FEMA. He explained what he saw, the teams hypotheses and conclusions for all 3 world trade center towers that collapsed.

    Then when the NIST reports for the three towers were released, and challenged what I understood from my professor, I began to research what I could to understand available evidence, including eye witness accounts, and reviewed analyses offered by others. On the 10th anniversary, I followed the international hearing in Canada, which produced the Toronto Report.

    With all I have read and heard, I am left with a lot of questions that are not satisfied by mainstream explanations for what happened on 9/11 to the Twin Towers, Building 7, or the Pentagon.

    On this 20th anniversary, I think it would be honoring to the fallen for there to be a full investigation, and I don’t mean the intel documents of potential Saudi connections the president has recently committed to release.

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