HASN’T FORGOTTEN: Retired Ark City Marine who survived Pentagon attack, saved lives, reflects on 9/11 anniversary

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The aftermath of the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11. (Photo courtesy the U.S. Marine Corp.)
Dustin Schuetz with daughter Carlie and son Jackson at the 2019 Veterans Day Parade in Ark City. (Photo courtesy Lori Schuetz)

A retired Ark City Marine who saved lives when the Pentagon was attacked on September 11, 2001, wants to see the country he served come together.

“We came together then,” Dustin Schuetz said during an on-air phone interview Monday morning on 95.9. FM. “Now we seem more divided than ever.”

Schuetz was a Lance Corporal in the United States Marines at the Pentagon when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the building at 9:37 in the morning on 9/11.

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The attack killed 189 people, including the passengers on the plane.

According to a November 2001 article on the attack from Leatherneck — a Marines magazine publication — Schuetz was working in the Aviation administration section of the Marine’s Aviation Department was knocked to the floor when the plane hit nearby.

(Photo courtesy Dustin Schuetz)

 

Schuetz got up and along with fellow LCpl Michael Vera, saw smoke and heard shouts. They went into the smoke together and guided people to safety and aided the injured. It’s estimated that Schuetz and Vera assisted 10 to 15 lives before going back to help more.

“Voices pierced the smoky, hot darkness—calls for help and shrieks of pain,” Leatherneck wrote. “They broke up into groups. LCpl Schuetz recalled boot camp, specifically the gas chamber and fire teams. They were like fire teams, taking turns rushing into the fiery rubble and debris, carrying fire extinguishers, sometimes one in each hand, toward a voice in the darkness.

“They carried out the injured.”

Schuetz from 1999. (Photo courtesy Dustin Schuetz)

Schuetz told Leatherneck, “You could only go so far, until you couldn’t breathe anymore or see anymore, and you don’t want yourself to be a casualty. So you had to turn around, and you could still hear them saying, ʻHelp. Somebody help me!’”

When asked why he and Vera went into the smoke and mayhem, Schuetz told the magazine, “That’s what Marines are supposed to do.”

Monday morning, Schuetz said he can still smell the destruction of that morning 22 years later, but what sticks with him the most is what it took for the country to come together despite its obstacles of gender, race and politics — even if he believes that sense of unity has been lost since.

“There’s no sense that it takes the biggest terrorist attack in the history of the world for Americans to treat each other as Americans,” he said.

(Photo courtesy Dustin Schuetz)
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