Jonathan James joined the Marine Corps about 10 days after graduating from Fort Hill High School in 1998. He was working in the Pentagon the day it was struck by American Airlines Flight 77, which had been hijacked by terrorists.

Jonathan James

Jonathan James

“The night before, on Monday, Sept. 10, I had been working late,” the Cumberland, Maryland, native said. “I went to the Navy Command Center right down the hall from my office to send a classified fax. It was an office that was literally right down the hall from me. The next morning, 35 of the 42 people who worked in that office — the office I had just been in the night before — were killed in the attack.”

James escaped the burning building — and having left a military-issued cell phone in the office inside the Pentagon — he then drove to his uncle’s house in Washington to phone his family home in Cumberland to let them know he had survived.

“My mom was the school nurse at Fort Hill at the time and one of her students had told her a plane had hit the Pentagon and Mom knew I was in there,” James said. “She took that pretty hard.”

He later found out the office he had been sitting in earlier that morning was destroyed. The fire that consumed that end of the Pentagon after the plane struck had reached that room. He also learned that the nose of the plane was found a mere 100 feet from his desk inside the building.

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