Resident recalls Pentagon tragedy
Everyone has personal terrorists.
From underwater mortgages to abusive relationships and secret addictions, these problems devastate lives and leave a path of destruction.
Nine years ago, Trina Hines, 46, of Conover, faced real terrorists during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Hines shares her survival story with others, so when they face terrorists, whether they be actual or theoretical, they can overcome and persevere.
“9/11, for me, was not an experience about being a hero,” Hines said. “It was about surviving so I could stand before (people); so I could tell them not to let terrorists get the best of you.”
Hines was appointed in July 2001 as the first female first sergeant for the Office to the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. She worked in the Pentagon compiling personal records and other information about 400 U.S. Army soldiers. She also participated in physical training with Army soldiers to ensure they were in compliance with training standards.
Sept. 11, 2001, dawned like any other day for Hines.
“I went about my normal routine,” she said. “I showered after physical training. I got a cup of coffee.”
Hines received a call about 9:25 a.m. from one of her supervisors, who said she needed to come immediately for an Army meeting.
“He said, ‘Hurry up, I need you to come to a meeting right away,’” Hines said.
Two soldiers were in Hines’ office when she received the call, and she scheduled another time for them to return. She left her office, and seeing no one else nearby, she shut the door to the main office building and headed to the meeting.
Hines climbed three flights of stairs before she stopped and asked where the Army meeting was located. The receptionist, however, knew of no Army meeting.
Hines didn’t want to miss the meeting, so she immediately called the Pentagon’s main office. By that time, one of the planes had struck the World Trade Center in New York, stalling meetings in the Pentagon.
“To me, that just didn’t make sense to me,” Hines said. “I knew I must have misunderstood him.”
Moments later, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
“You just don’t even know how to process what was happening,” Hines said.
She heard people yelling in the Pentagon’s hallways and contemplated returning to her office to see if anyone needed her help. But because she didn’t see anyone inside the office when she left for the meeting, Hines exited the Pentagon with the rest of its employees.
What Hines didn’t know was the plane crashed into her office area, killing 40 people she worked with.
“There’s no way to put those thoughts into words,” she said of the loss.
Hines later discovered that the meeting, which drew her away from her office minutes before the attacks, didn’t exist. Her supervisor was reading the calendar incorrectly.
“Had I been in the office, I would have been a casualty,” she said. “I would have died that day, too.”
Days after the attacks, Hines and other Pentagon employees returned to the building and returned to work.
“It was eerie – very dark and cold,” she said. “The lights weren’t on all the way. (The building) was empty. It’s like, ‘Wow, I don’t even know what to say.’”
Hines remembers checking on a co-worker, who was pregnant with twins at the time.
“She said, ‘I don’t understand. Why are we still working when my friends could be laying over there in that rubbish?’”
For Hines, the answer was simple: because you have to go on.
“I told her I didn’t know, but I knew we had to go on,” she said. “If we stop working, we will let the terrorists get the best of us.”
In 2007, Hines decided to compile her life experiences – not just her memories of Sept. 11, into a self-published book, “9/11: Pentagon S.O.S.”
“I just felt like it was a story that needed to be told about survival,” she said. “I feel that, whenever I open my mouth, I need to tell people when the opportunity arises, that whenever you face something unexpected and you survive, it’s worth sharing.”
Three years ago, Hines and her family moved to Conover. They had family in Charlotte, and were looking for a quiet place to settle down.
Hines works in Burke County Schools as an Army JROTC instructor. She teaches her students never to forget Sept. 11 or any other hardships they face in life.
“I don’t want people to think it’s just about 9/11; it’s about the unexpected,” she said. “Lost jobs; lost homes; major setbacks. I just want to encourage them to hang in there. They can and will over come – as long as you’re still here and you have hope.”
For more information about Hines and her book, visit www.sospentagon.com.