“Everything I touched burned my hands.”
John Yates 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.
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John Yates (JY): 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 gotta come see. And there's a crowd of people watching the TV and so I stood there for a few minutes and watched. And then I walked back to my desk. I called my wife and she said she knew and I said, Well, I just wanted to let you know that I was okay. 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 I walked back over and by this time the crowd kind of thinned out a little bit. And just as I'd 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. That kind of scared me because I knew the floor plan of our space better than I knew the floor plan of our own house. The room was just black and everything I touched burned my hands. I just started crawling on my hands and knees and I knew that I was going in the right direction when it started getting a little bit lighter and could feel water on my back from the sprinklers. Eventually I stood up and started walking down toward the center courtyard. And it's at this point that I finally realize how badly I was hurt because I was walking I looked down at my hands and I remember seeing just strings of skin which was hanging off my hands from the burns. And I remember sitting on the grass and a medic coming up and cutting all of my clothes off of me. And a doctor saying, He goes first. There's a lot of things that I don't remember to this day but I remember my wife waking me up and uh, I thought it was still September 11th. But it was September 13th. You know, when I went back over the second time to watch what was going on in New York, I was standing in the middle of five people and uh, I'm the only one that survived.