Pentagon attack witness describes emotional toll

Theresia Whitfield

INDIANAPOLIS - A credible threat hangs over the nation's capital as we head into a weekend full of 9/11 memorials.

One local woman, back from the brink of a post-9/11 meltdown, is sharing a story you don't often hear about. She was caught up in the chaos and is suffering an emotional toll.

Pulled from the burned wreckage at the Pentagon, a clock stuck in time.

"I feel like I've been frozen in time," said freelance producer Theresia Whitfield. She was in a building across from the Pentagon when flight 77 crashed into the west wing, killing 184 people.

"It was a muffled, very distinctive loud boom," Whitfield said, trying to describe the impact of the plane into the building.

Amid reports of planes crashing into the World Trade Center, she was so scared she couldn't move.

Just weeks prior, Whitfield had worked on a counterterrorism project examining everything from anthrax to dirty nukes.

She was hired by the Christian Broadcasting Network, CBN, to cover the attacks in Washington and eventually, on to Ground Zero.

"It reeked of jet fuel and death," she recalled.

Too busy to talk about the horrific video images she saw everyday, anxiety began to build.

She thought relocating to Indianapolis would lessen the impact, but the isolation away from others who experienced the attacks only made it worse.

"It was four years after the attacks. I crashed," she revealed. "I just spiraled out of control and I couldn't take it and I didn't want to live like this anymore," she said.

Six weeks of counseling brought her back from the depths of despair.

"They diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," she told Eyewitness News.

She now writes about what happened to inspire others to get help and to mend her own wounds.

But with new credible threats, she's reminded of unfinished business. Shaking her head, Whitfield discloses another personal challenge.

"I haven't been back. I haven't been back to D.C. or New York yet. I swore I wouldn't go back. But I think I will. I think I will go back," she said with tears welling up in her eyes.

Whitfield has learned that healing takes time. This tenth anniversary of the attacks is a big step toward the days to come.

Whitfield continues to write articles for NASCAR and other publications.