Date of Interview: 29 April 2002
Interviewer: CAPT Michael McDaniel
At the time of the attack, CDR Radi was serving as the Deputy Executive Assistant to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO). On the morning of the attack, he was at work at the Pentagon.
Oral History Summary:
On the morning of the attack, CDR Radi called the CNO Intelligence Plot (CNO IP) to see if they had any intelligence on the events in New York. He’d been the office in charge of the CNO IP before being relieved by CDR Dan Shanower close to a year prior. CDR Radi had worked closely with several of the people that were serving that day in the CNO IP. In the weeks before the attack, the CNO IP team had moved to their new space in the new Navy Command Center on the first deck of D Ring between Corridors 4 and 5. The morning of the attack, CDR Radi could feel, much like LCDR Dale Rielage, the draw of his old work in intelligence. He spoke to CDR Shanower’s deputy, LCDR Tolbert, for a few moments, then hung up when LCDR Tolbert promised to share anything as soon as they learned it.
Around the same time, CDR Radi was watching the footage from New York City when he realized he knew someone who worked at the World Trade Center. On one of his previous tours of duty, CDR Radi had served as the aide to Commander Second Fleet ADM William “Bud” Flanagan. After serving as Commander Second Fleet, ADM Flanagan had served as Commander Atlantic Fleet before retiring and entering civilian life. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, which occupied the uppermost floors of the North Tower (Tower 1) of the World Trade Center. Watching the footage the morning of the attacks, CDR Radi remembered that Flanagan had mentioned working on the 105th floor of one of the towers and tried immediately tried to call his cell, but it just rang and rang with no answer. CDR Radi wasn’t sure what that meant, but he knew it wasn’t a good sign. He wouldn’t have much time to dwell on it though, because not long after the plane hit the Pentagon.
Because of the location of his office on the fourth deck of the D Ring on the north side of the Pentagon, CDR Radi, along with VCNO ADM Fallon and the rest of the VCNO staff were able to evacuate fairly calmly and quickly. They ended up leaving their office area with CNO ADM Clark and some of the CNO staff. According to CDR Radi, even as they made their way to the lower decks, CNO and VCNO (“the four stars”) were already working to determine where the Navy could set up temporary offices and get back to work. When they got to the lower decks, CDR Radi was tasked with locating the Navy’s senior leadership, the three star admirals who served as the N code chiefs. CNO and VCNO were concerned based on their visual read of the plane’s point of impact that it had taken out the higher decks on that side where a large portion of Navy leadership and staff had just moved. He exited out to the North Parking Lot and began his search.
He ultimately only found one of the three star admirals, OPNAV N1 VADM Ryan. But, during his search, CDR Radi ran into a few of the CNO IP staff. Based on the state of their clothing and their appearances, he figured out right away that they’d been in or very close to the direct path of the plane. They were the first to tell CDR Radi that everyone that had been in the daily post-briefings hot wash was missing – the office where they’d all been gathered was gone. In the next few moments, CDR Radi learned that VCNO had set up an office in the Navy Annex.
At the Navy Annex, CDR Radi worked with VCNO and VADM Ryan to rebuild the Navy’s Pentagon staff rosters and figure out who was unaccounted for. By the end of their task, they had a list that nearly matched the final toll of 42 Navy personnel, including the seven from the CNO IP.
As he worked with VCNO to build the rosters, CDR Radi had a moment to breathe and remembered that VCNO had served as the Deputy Commander Atlantic Fleet under ADM Flanagan. He mentioned it to VCNO who gasped when he remembered that Flanagan worked in the World Trade Center. They were both concerned, but were too busy with determining the status of the Navy personnel at the Pentagon to determine whether Bud Flanagan had died. Then CDR Radi received a phone call around 4:00pm from his wife, who told him that she’d received a phone call from the Admiral and Mrs. Flanagan. They were calling her because they were worried about CDR Radi. On that phone call with CDR Radi’s wife, Bud Flanagan confirmed that he was okay and he’d only survived because he’d been running fifteen minutes late, “retired no longer had an aide to keep him on time.” He’d been about to walk into the North Tower of the World Trade Center when it was hit by the first plane.
The emotional roller coaster continued for CDR Radi in the days and weeks after the attack. He was asked by her family to give the eulogy at the memorial service for Angie Houtz, one of the seven that had died in the CNO IP. CDR Radi had played an important supporting role in her career and she spoke highly of him. In his eulogy, he sought to comfort her family by talking about the important work she did and how well she did it. At the same time, CDR Radi was trying to comfort his young son, who had a close relationship with the son of LtCol Brian Birdwell, an Army officer who was severely injured in the attack.
While discussing the events of the day of the attack and the days and weeks after, CDR Radi reflected on the efforts of the CNO, VCNO, and the three star flag officers who worked tirelessly to ensure the operations of the United States Navy were not hindered by the attack, while also bolstering the efforts to support the families of the Navy personnel who had been lost in the attack. He discussed the feelings he had regarding the attack’s direct impact on his former office and staff in the CNO IP. He also talked openly about the personal impact of the attack and the work he did afterwards. He also shared a couple of stories of private citizens coming to help out at the Navy Annex after the attack that touched him deeply.