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'Then we heard a loud boom.' Nashville Airport CEO recalls being at Pentagon during 9/11

Doug Kreulen
Posted at 3:27 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 19:36:02-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville airport CEO Doug Kreulen was at the Pentagon on 9/11. He had just left a meeting in the Army Readiness Center when it was hit by a hijacked plane.

Before Doug Kreulen was the CEO of the airport, he was an air force pilot. On September 11 he was serving as the Chief of the Readiness Division at the Pentagon. He left a meeting to go back to his office right after 9 a.m. Kreulen said, "and then we heard a loud boom."

American 77 had crashed into the place he'd been meeting with people moments before. Kreulen said, "Shortly thereafter the vents started exhausting smoke.”

Then, they evacuated the building. "And those F-16s flew over the Pentagon, and that’s when you teared up," Kreulen said.

Some people he knew didn't survive. Doug said he emailed his wife he was okay, but she didn't see it.

"With all that going on in D.C. that day you couldn’t use a cell phone, I lived 40 miles from the Pentagon, so it took me about 6 hours to get home so my family didn’t know until 6 that night that we were okay," Kreulen said.

Not long before the attacks, Kreulen said he visited New York City with his family. When he went home that night to hug his kids, a postcard was pinned to his son’s mirror of the twin towers.

Amid the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, it's a tough time for survivors and veterans.

"It is somber. It’s sad. I mean I’ll get up and watch all of the news stories on 9/11 and you basically relive it again. You’re sad for the colleagues that you lost, you’re sad for the veterans that have been over there for the last 20 years protecting us, and you’re sad because you don’t know what the future holds for the United States."