9/11 Pentagon Survivor Story at Local Library


Noelle Worley, Journalist


9/11 Pentagon Survivor Story at Local Library

Ryan Yantis, Lt. Col., US Army veteran, spokesperson at the Warrenville Public Library on Sept. 9 about his experience at the Pentagon on 9/11. 

Yantis was an HR worker in the Pentagon on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. In his office, he watched news reports come in, showing the planes hitting the World Trade Center. He had spent two years in New York City before being assigned to the Pentagon. That life-changing day he was instructed to attend a meeting at 9:30 a.m. in a different section of the Pentagon with several top generals in order to advise them on how to most effectively move troops into New York. Only minutes after Yantis entered the meeting, the alarms went off and all personnel was instructed to evacuate the building. 

Yantis returned to the corridor where his office was located and checked every room to ensure everyone had escaped. When asked about the source of his courage he confessed, “I wasn’t afraid, I was pissed… it happened on my watch”. He continued down many other hallways while the alarms were going off until a security guard insisted that he exit the building. 

For the first time, Yantis saw section 1 of the Pentagon engulfed in flames and surrounded by the carnage of airplane parts. He immediately jumped into action, carrying stretchers into and out of the fire. In the confusion, most of the ambulances went toward the fire and smoke, but most of the seriously injured were rushed out of a lateral exit or into the courtyard. Despite this, Yantis worked tirelessly to transport as many as possible to professional aid. 

Regardless of the firefight in Section 1 that continued until late morning Sept. 12, the Pentagon never closed. By 3 p.m., Yantis was back inside beginning to fill out the casualty reports from the attack. Many approached him to confirm deaths, but Yantis recognized the confusion surrounding such a shocking situation and refused to confirm death on any of the reports. He held onto the last bit of hope, writing: duty status unknown, whereabouts unknown.

After his experience on 9/11, Yantis went on to survive cancer, counseled survivors in an organization called American Pride, and became a father to three daughters. “Life is good when you know how to go for it. Be resilient. Don’t let yourself stay knocked down”,  is the advice Yantis gives to young people.


Edited by Maya Bose