09/15/10 — Fremont man recounts 9/11 experiences in D.C.

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Fremont man recounts 9/11 experiences in D.C.

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 15, 2010 1:46 PM

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A painting in memory of 9/11 hangs behind Johnny Pippin of Fremont who was working in Washington, D.C., on the day of the attack. Pippin shared his memories of trying to escape the city during a Hero Appreciation Service at Pleasant Grove Free Will Baptist Church at Pikeville on Sunday morning. Local fire, EMS and law enforcement were honored at the program.

PIKEVILLE -- Nine years ago as Wayne County residents watched the coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks, Johnny Pippin was frantically trying to get word to his wife that he was OK.

A tobacco marketing specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Pippin, who lives in Fremont, was in his Washington, D.C., office that morning.

Sunday morning, Pippin shared his memories of that day during a Hero Appreciation Service at Pleasant Grove Free Will Baptist Church.

Local firefighters, EMS and law enforcement officers were honored during the program. Afterward, they and their families were treated to a meal in the church fellowship hall.

Also on the program were Pikeville Fire Chief Ken Jones and retired chief Wesley Wooten. Youth of the church were in charge of the program and Ignite, a youth group at the church, presented a drama based on the song, "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?"

There are some events that are so seared into a person's mind that people always remember where they were when it occurred, Pippin said.

"Probably the first one that stands out in my mind is John F. Kennedy's assassination," he said. "I was in the seventh grade at Fremont High School in Mrs. Ann Smith's class. We were on the right-hand side of the building, the third room on the right-hand side.

"I know each and every one of us know where we were nine years ago on those events of 9/11. I remember it as well as if it was yesterday. It was a Tuesday morning. It was probably one of the clearest brightest days. It was a cool, crisp morning. It wasn't cold yet here."

Pippin shared a basement apartment in Oxon Hill, Md., about 10 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., with another federal employee and carpooled with several co-workers. His office was on the fifth floor of the Cotton Annex, and he had to leave each morning at 5:30 to be at work by 7 a.m. because of the heavy traffic

He remembers the call he received about 9 a.m. that Tuesday from someone wanting to know if he had any information about an accident in which an airplane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers.

Pippin said he didn't, but that he would walk down the hall to an office that had a television that was used to monitor the news. The crash was on the screen when he walked into the office.

"I said, 'I reckon it is just a freak accident,'" he said. "Then all of a sudden we looked, the camera was on the other building, and here comes another plane. I said, 'something is not right.'"

Pippin said he and his co-workers watched for another 10 or 15 minutes before returning to their offices.

A man who worked down the hall rushed in saying, "look, look."

"I got up from my desk and turned I saw the picture you are looking at here," he said pointing to a photo projected on the wall showing billowing black smoke over the city.

Pippin said he knew the smoke was in the area where the Pentagon was located.

"It startled me," he said. "I said, 'Are we going to war today? What is happening?'"

He and his co-workers headed to the streets to leave the city.

"By that time other people had started coming out (of offices)," he said. "They were looking at what was going on back toward the Pentagon. People were walking down the street like they were lost. I saw fear in their eyes. You did not know what was going to happen."

Pippin arrived home safely and returned to Oxen Hill on Sunday as usual. However, the following weeks were anything but normal.

"When you come in on (Interstate) 95 and make that circle by the Pentagon and you could look back there and see the area that was blackened," he said. "It kind of brought back into your mind some of the ones who lost their lives. It goes through your mind what they were thinking at those final moments. You think about were they saved. I am sure they were thinking about their own families and loved ones."

Nine years later, Pippin said he is still "mad" that someone would do something like that to take another person's life, and that it's something everbody should take time to remember.