Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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  • Casualties
  • September 11--Pentagon
  • Terrorist Attack
  • Places--Pentagon
  • Evacuation
  • September 11--Terrorist Attacks
  • September 11--World Trade Center
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  • Oral History
Wars & Conflicts
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O'Brien, Sean CAPT

9/11 Pentagon Attack Oral History

“Originally, they were telling us to go to the center courtyard. We decided we weren’t going to go there because, why [would] you go to the center courtyard when there’s a fire. I mean that didn’t make sense. Let’s evacuate the building. And we did the evacuation process so that it was quite lengthy and I don’t think it was well organized.”

Date of Interview: 12 March 2002

Interviewer: CAPT Michael McDaniel, USNR, Navy Combat Documentation Detachment 206

At the time of the attack, CAPT O'Brien was serving as the head of the OPNAV N512 Warfare Policy and Doctrine Branch.  On the morning of the attack, he was at work at the Pentagon.

Oral History Summary:

CAPT O'Brien served as the command representative for the family of CAPT Lawrence Getzfred.  CAPT Getzfred was serving in the Navy Command Center when the plane hit the Pentagon.  As the OPNAV N3/N5 command rep, CAPT O'Brien worked closely with the CACO assigned to the Getzfred family to ensure they received all of the support they needed following the death of CAPT Getzfred

On the morning of the attack, CAPT O'Brien was in his office on the fourth deck of the D Ring between Corridors 3 and 4.  He made it safely out of the Pentagon, although he did feel that the evacuation process was not well thought out and a little unorganized.   When word of another plane began spreading, CAPT O'Brien and three others from his office got in his car and left the area.  That evening, after making it home, he got a call from another N51 branch head, who gave him the list of everyone they presumed was missing from the Navy Command Center.  He then found out that VADM Keating had asked that every family be assigned a N3/N5 command representative to work alongside the assigned CACO.  CAPT O'Brien had served in the aviation community with CAPT Getzfred, so he was assigned the Getzfred family.

Over the next few months, CAPT O'Brien spent a significant amount of time with the Getzfred family.  He helped them in any way he felt was needed.  He went with the family to visit the Pentagon site at the end of September.  He helped set up the memorial service for CAPT Getzfred at Fort Meyer in Arlington.  He also helped plan the funeral for CAPT Getzfred in Illinois.  In addition to his continued support of the Getzfred family, CAPT O'Brien also attended the funerals for many of the others that had been lost in the Navy Command Center.  At one point, the funerals were occurring weekly.

Beyond discussing his experiences on the day of the attack and his experiences serving as the N3/N5 rep for the Getzfred family, CAPT O'Brien also discussed the work the N512 branch had been doing since the attack. 

Content Warnings: Sensitive Content and Language

Oral History Abstract and Transcript: O'Brien, Sean CAPT Pentagon Attack Oral History (PDF, 608kb)

Related Oral Histories:

Hannes, Kevin CDR

Miller, Kevin CDR

Shaeffer, Kevin LT

Stratton, Jeff CDR

Published: Wed Aug 18 08:57:08 EDT 2021