Story Corps: Sept. 11 Survivor Recalls Day

John Yates was working at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. His office sustained a near-direct hit from American Airlines Flight 77, and Yates suffered burns on almost 40 percent of his body. He recounted the events of that morning.

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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

We now turned to a moment from our partners at StoryCorps. And this is about John Yates. He was working at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. His office sustained a near-direct hit from American Airlines Flight 77. And Yates suffered burns on almost 40 percent of his body.

At StoryCorps, Yates recounted the events of that morning.

JOHN YATES: One of my co-workers asked me if I knew what was going on in New York. So I said no, and she said well, you've got to come see. And there's a crowd of people watching the TV, so I stood there for a few minutes and watched. And I called my wife. She said she knew and I said well, I just wanted to let you know I was OK. And she said, do me a favor. For the rest of the day, work from underneath your desk.

So I laughed. And I said yeah, honey, I will. I love you, and I'll see you tonight. And just as I decided to get up and leave, the plane hit the outside of the building. I was blown through the air and when I landed, I really didn't know where I was. The room was just black, and everything I touched burned my hands.

And I remember seeing just strings of skin, which was hanging off my hands from the burns. There's a lot of things that I don't remember to this day. But I remember a medic cutting all my clothes off of me. And my wife waking me up, and I thought it was still September 11th. But it was September 13th. You know, when I went to watch what was going on in New York, I was standing in the middle of five people. And I'm the only one that survived.

CORNISH: These 9/11 stories will be housed at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum. All StoryCorps recordings are archived at the Library of Congress.

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CORNISH: You'll find more reflections on today's anniversary, and images and music - and through blogging of today's events - at our website, at NPR.org.

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