Eighteen years ago, children from around the country showed their support for Arlington's first responders with homemade cards filled with drawings and words of encouragement.
Drawing of a red firetruck with heart on the side; child's card from the Center for Local History Community Archives.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked a west coast-bound plane taking off from nearby Dulles Airport and crashed it into the Pentagon. Within minutes of the attack, firefighters and first responders from Arlington County, Fort Myer, and Reagan National Airport arrived at the scene. Arlington County Fire Department took the lead, establishing an Incident Command System (ICS) across the Washington-metro region to respond to the emergency. Firefighters managed to get the fire under control on the first day, but it took three days to fully extinguish the fire, and reach, as Arlington County Fire Chief Edward Plaugher described it, “the heart of the crash site.”
In total, 189 people died in the attack on the Pentagon, including the 64 passengers and crew on Flight 77.
These attacks devastated our community, but support flowed in to Arlington from around the nation. Children from across the country—from as far as Washington state to as close as Arlington, VA—sent homemade thank you cards to the Arlington County Fire Department in appreciation of their efforts to fight the fire and rescue survivors.
Drawing of firefighter using a water-hose from firetruck to put out a fire from a burning building; child's card from the Center for Local History Community Archives.
The card pictured below, from a child not named, features an American flag and a firefighter putting out a fire. The child thanks the firefighters for saving lives and being there for the people at the Pentagon. This is a theme for almost all of the cards.
Child's card from the Center for Local History Community Archives.
Zack Barrett made a pop-up card thanking the firefighters for keeping our nation running.
5th grader Ryan drew a picture of a firefighter on top of a building, and thanked them for risking their lives.
Children's cards from the Center for Local History Community Archives.
These, and the hundreds of other unsolicited drawings and letters sent to the Arlington County Fire Department, are preserved in the Community Archive at the Center for Local History.
Some of the young artists and writers no doubt have children of their own today, but the emotions remain as fresh and powerful as the day they were put on paper and mailed from places like Renton, WA, Toledo, OH, Clarksdale, MS - and more locally Ashburn, VA and Washington DC.
Child's card with two yellow stars and an exclamation point that says "Stand tall America! Thank you for helping." From the Center for Local History Community Archives.
Read a detailed account of the Arlington County Fire Department emergency response to the attack on the Pentagon in the blog post, "Attack on the Pentagon - Sept. 11, 2001," published Friday, March 18, 2005 by Arlington Fire Journal & Metro D.C. Fire History.
Listen to oral history interviews with first responders and Arlingtonians about their experiences on Sept. 11, 2001, and the days that followed.
To see more of the Children's Cards, or to learn more about Arlington's history, visit the Center for Local History on the first floor of the Central Library.
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