Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Medical Response to 9/11 - Paul K. Carlton Jr.

Lt. Gen. Paul K. Carlton Jr., retired, Surgeon General of the Air Force Lt. Gen. Paul K. Carlton Jr., retired, Surgeon General of the Air Force

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11

We were a mix of generals and privates, all services . . . but I can’t think of a better group to respond to a crisis. All were cool and calm . . . many . . . had been under fire over the past 30 years. We had SEALs and Special Forces, etc, too . . . very poised. A few civilians, all ex-military. No one postured . . . all were leaders and knew how to take charge but realized there could only be one chief and good followers to make things work. The stretcher team next to me had a 3-star Air Force general on it . . . the junior officer who had the lead asked him if he wanted to take charge – he said: ‘No, I’m just a volunteer on the team Major.’ The volunteers deferred to the medical staff.*

That Air Force general was Lt. Gen. Paul K. Carlton Jr., the Air Force surgeon general, who had run to the DiLorenzo Clinic immediately after the attack.  He arrived in the center courtyard and helped organize the minimal, immediate, delayed and expectant triage teams. Later, Carlton formed four volunteers into a litter team to accompany him into the building to search for survivors.

There was a man on the floor with the floor having just had a fire put out, because it was still smoking everywhere. He was on his back. And as I got low enough to look, the first thing I saw in the room was this man lifting a table. When he lifted the table he didn’t lift it far. He lifted it and then I could see a casualty kind of laid out with his feet to my left and his head to my right, cocked at a funny angle and about a foot and a half off the ground. I subsequently found out he had been sitting in a chair at a table when the building collapse occurred, and the chair arms held and kept the table from crushing him. The table had a lot of debris on it, and so apparently the first two people in the room could not lift it. There was fire on top of the table.

This gentleman laying at a kind of funny angle, had fire right above his head on a cabinet and fire literally at his feet. He looked at us. He looked at us, and he was astonished, with a kind of “I am not awake” look. By that time I had a wet T-shirt over my face . . . I handed a wet T-shirt to the person who was just ahead of me. And I threw a wet T-shirt, and one of us hit him [the man on the ground], which made him shake himself and wake up. He was just out of reach. We very strongly verbally encouraged him to move, so that we could get him. He rolled to his left and there was somebody whose feet I saw at the level end of the table, who grabbed him. The rest of us grabbed him also. About that time, somebody passed me a fire extinguisher. There was fire fairly much all around. I squirted it, and it made it flare up more, which told me it was a fuel fire. The man on the ground was smoking at that time, and I squirted it on him. He didn’t catch fire. He rolled out. The next part then was to get him out. We passed him out.**

People outside yelled, “Get out!”  The loudest cry came from Navy Commander Craig Powell, who was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed 250 pounds. Before the attack, Powell had been in the section of the building that was now crumbling and so knew people were trapped. He had managed to get to the alleyway and caught five people who jumped out of the building, before helping to rescue the man under the table.  Now he was holding up the roof, which was beginning to crumble.

About three or four people came out with General Carlton. The last man to emerge, Commander Powell, was “chased by a huge flame and smoke, and that was actually the roof letting go.”

The rescued man was Jerry Henson, a retired naval aviator, who coordinated counter-drug operations  and emergency relief from an office on the first floor in the C-ring  in the Navy Command Center. Henson was indeed lucky; 33 of his coworkers in the Navy Command Center died that day.

*An email from William A. Russell, MD, U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, to William Stacy, U.S. Army Forces Command, 19 September 2001.

The complete account is in the book:  Attack on the Pentagon: The Medical Response to 9/11.
By Mary Ellen Condon-Rall, PhD, Borden Institute Fort Detrick, Maryland
Office of The Surgeon General United States Army Falls Church, Virginia
U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School Fort Sam Houston, Texas 2011

**Condensed from an interview of Major General Paul K. Carlton Jr., Air Force Surgeon General regarding Sept. 11, 2001. Interview by the Air Force History Support Office, Washington, D.C., on December 4, 2001. Transcript: Air Force History Support Office, Washington, D.C. Lt. General Carlton served as Surgeon General of the Air Force from  1999 – 2002.

The complete account is in the book:  Attack on the Pentagon: The Medical Response to 9/11.
By Mary Ellen Condon-Rall, PhD, Borden Institute Fort Detrick, Maryland
Office of The Surgeon General United States Army Falls Church, Virginia
U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School Fort Sam Houston, Texas 2011

You also may be interested in...

Since 9/11, These 8 Military Medical Advancements are Saving Lives

Article
9/14/2021
Retired U.S. Army Sgt. Derek Weida jokes with a physician during his prosthetic leg fitting at a prosthetics clinic in Las Vegas in April 2018.

Years of military conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan brought innovations that completely transformed the Military Health System's approach to combat casualty care. Here's a list of just a few ways military medicine has evolved in the two decades since the 9/11 attacks.

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Technology | MHS Remembers 9/11 | 20th Anniversary of 9/11: Call-to-Action

Remembering 9/11: Military Health Leaders Reflect 20 Years Later

Article
9/14/2021
Onlookers view the collapsed side of the Pentagon building.

Military Health System leaders recall their 9/11 stories.

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | 20th Anniversary of 9/11: Call-to-Action

Somber Ceremony at DHA Headquarters Evokes Vivid Memories of 9/11

Article
9/10/2021
Defense Health Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg bow their heads for the invocation prayer during a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, at DHA headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia, Sept. 10.

Vivid memories and somber reflections marked an emotional ceremony at Defense Health Agency headquarters on Friday as the military medical community remembered and honored the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | 20th Anniversary of 9/11: Call-to-Action

‘My Life Changed That Day’ – DHA Staff Recalls 9/11 at the Pentagon

Article
9/10/2021
"Merwynn Pagdanganan, a federal health care IT specialist at the Pentagon, was there the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. He jumped into action to support the emergency responders aiding and evacuating the injured (Courtesy of Merwynn Pagdanganan)."

A Defense Health Agency IT specialist recalls his 9/11 experience.

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | 20th Anniversary of 9/11: Call-to-Action

9/11 20th Anniversary Message from DHA Leadership

Video
9/8/2021
9/11 infographic

Our commemorations of the terrorist attacks on our nation twenty years ago serve as a somber reminder of the loss on 9/11 and in the days and years that followed. Lt. Gen. Ron Place, DHA Director, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, DHA Senior Enlisted Leader, share their message honoring the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | 20th Anniversary of 9/11: Call-to-Action

Remembering 9/11, finding hope

Article
9/15/2016
Jessica Meyle and her son, Robert, born on May 13, 2002—just barely eight months after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Ms. Meyle was a public affairs specialist in the TRICARE Management Activity, Communications and Customer Service division and still supports the Defense Health Agency today. Robert just started his first year in high school.

Jessica Meyle, a current employee at the Defense Health Agency recalls events on 9/11 and the day after.

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11

9/11 Memories - Army Col. (Dr.) Geoffrey G. Grammer

Article
9/14/2016
Army Col. (Dr.) Geoffrey G. Grammer, Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center director

Army Col. (Dr.) Geoffrey G. Grammer recalls the events of 9/11

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11

9/11 Memories - Kate McGraw

Article
9/14/2016
Kate McGraw, DCoE Deployment Health Clinical Center interim director

Kate McGraw recalls the events of 9/11 at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11

September 11: USU Answers the Call

Publication
9/12/2016

USU graduates, faculty and students were among the first responders to New York and Washington, as well as the Pennsylvania crash site. Their extensive training and experience enabled them to react and mobilize quickly, many of them within seconds of the Pentagon attack.

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11

Chaplain of Navy Medicine Remembers Sept. 11, 2001

Video
9/12/2016
Chaplain of Navy Medicine Remembers Sept. 11, 2001

Capt. Dale White, chaplain of Navy Medicine, shares his story about Sept. 11, 2001. (U.S Navy video)

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11

9/11 Memories - Patricia D. Horoho

Article
9/12/2016
Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, retired, Surgeon General of the Army

Former U.S. Army Surgeon General recalls the events of 9/11 at the Pentagon

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11

Medical Response to 9/11 - Patricia Horoho and Malcolm Nance

Article
9/12/2016
Photo of the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. The Pentagon Memorial was created to remember and honor those family members and friends who are no longer with us because of the events of September 11, 2001 at the Pentagon. (Courtesy photo by Kevin Dwyer)

Patricia Horoho and Malcolm Nance recall the events of 9/11

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11

Pentagon Scene

Photo
9/11/2016
A fire fighter from Arlington County, Fire Department surveys the scene during rescue and recovery efforts following the deadly Sep. 11 terrorist attack in which a hijacked commercial airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. American Airlines FLT 77 was bound for Los Angeles from Washington Dulles with 58 passengers and 6 crew. All aboard the aircraft were killed, along with 125 people in the Pentagon. (U.S. Naval photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass.)

A fire fighter from Arlington County, Fire Department surveys the scene during rescue and recovery efforts following the deadly Sep. 11 terrorist attack in which a hijacked commercial airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. American Airlines FLT 77 was bound for Los Angeles from Washington Dulles with 58 passengers and 6 crew. All aboard the aircraft were killed, along with 125 people in the Pentagon. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass.)

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11

Pentagon Ruins

Photo
9/11/2016
A section of the Pentagon lies in ruins following the deadly Sep. 11 terrorist attack in which a hijacked commercial airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. American Airlines FLT 77 was bound for Los Angeles from Washington Dulles with 58 passengers and 6 crew. All aboard the aircraft were killed, along with 125 people in the Pentagon. (U. S. Naval photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass)

A section of the Pentagon lies in ruins following the deadly Sep. 11 terrorist attack in which a hijacked commercial airliner was crashed into the Pentagon. American Airlines FLT 77 was bound for Los Angeles from Washington Dulles with 58 passengers and 6 crew. All aboard the aircraft were killed, along with 125 people in the Pentagon. (U. S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass)

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11

Pentagon Flag

Photo
9/11/2016
Military Service members render honors as fire and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon during rescue and recovery efforts following the Sept 11 terrorist attack. The attack came at approximately 9:40 a.m. as a hijacked commercial airliner, originating from Washington D.C.'s Dulles airport, was flown into the southern side of the building facing Route 27. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass)

Military Service members render honors as fire and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon during rescue and recovery efforts following the Sept 11 terrorist attack. The attack came at approximately 9:40 a.m. as a hijacked commercial airliner, originating from Washington D.C.'s Dulles airport, was flown into the southern side of the building facing Route 27. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael W. Pendergrass)

Recommended Content:

MHS Remembers 9/11 | MHS Remembers 9/11
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.