NewsRemembering 9/11: 20 Years Later

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Remembering 9/11: Jon Burkett returns to the Pentagon

Jon Burkett at the Pentagon.png
Posted at 3:16 PM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 10:30:02-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Jon Burkett was just one year out of the Navy, working for CBS 6 primarily as a photojournalist, on September 11, 2001.

He was sent to Northern Virginia shortly after the attack on the Pentagon.

For the next 72 hours, Burkett was part of a CBS 6 team at the Pentagon sending back stories and images to Richmond and around the country.

"I was in Richmond, it was the morning time, the first plane had already gone into the tower," Burkett recalled. "I was watching on TV and I pretty much knew then to get my jump bag ready because we’d be going somewhere, and then the second plane hit."

When terrorists flew a third plane into the Pentagon, Burkett's assignment became clear.

"We went live on the hill for about three days I think," he said referring to a hill outside the Pentagon."One year out of the Navy, and staring at the symbol of the military, the Pentagon, it’s the symbol of military strength and might, and I see a gaping charred hole in the side of the building. You could still see flames when we got up here, and it was just a surreal moment. You knew that America changed forever that day."

While the damage at the Pentagon was surreal, the scene outside was emotional.

"I remember the day after we went down closer to the Pentagon and there was a tent on a sidewalk and many of the family members had gathered themselves in tents with hopes that they were going to get words about their loved ones," Burkett said. "I remember one lady unzipping her tent and basically crawling out of the tent and she looked at us and said ‘my husband’s in there and he’s coming home.'"

That moment stuck with Burkett.

"Just the sadness that I felt as a young journalist, knowing that most likely her husband died inside the Pentagon when the plane hit and she’s holding onto hope that she’s going to get news, and she’s probably not going to get it, that was tremendously sad," he said.

Other aspects of that day also remain imprinted on Burkett's brain.

"Obviously aesthetically it’s been fixed, but I can remember that black hole, I’ll remember that gaping hole forever," he said. "I can tell you the day of, it hit me real hard that day, I can remember shedding a few tears that day."

Burkett said he knows it's his duty to talk about 9/11 so younger Americans never forget.

"My kids, my youngest Clara doesn’t understand what happened that day and I want her to know that daddy was there that day, daddy was there the day the plane flew into the building and America was attacked," he said.

Join us this week as we Remember 9/11: 20 Years Later with unique reports and recollections from our award-winning storytellers on social media, WTVR.com, and television.