DU professor recalls 9/11 attack on Pentagon

Posted at 6:12 PM, Sep 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-11 20:12:55-04

A University of Denver professor is sharing his story of survival on the 14th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Philip Beaver was in the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building. He lost 28 colleagues in his office.

"I had 29 years in uniform and one bad day. That was my one bad day," the retired U.S. Army Colonel told 7NEWS Anchor Anne McNamara in his first television interview about 9/11.

Every year, Beaver starts his day with emails to other survivors, messages expressing gratitude their lives were spared. Beaver, who now teaches business analytics at the University of Denver, said he has come a long way from that dark day.

"For about six months afterward, loud noises bothered me," he said. "My girls would slam a door at home and I would jump."

He was on the computer at work, searching for news about the attack on the Twin Towers when he heard an explosion.

"Being in the military, I'd heard things explode before...heard things go boom. It shouldn't have been a surprise, but you just don't expect it in your office," Beaver recalled. "I think that was the part I had to get by was -- we're not safe anywhere now."

Beaver distinctly remembers his office window was one of the only ones in the wing that blew in -- not out. The glass did not even break.

"As they renovated the Pentagon, they put a coating on every window, at $1,100 per window, paid for by the American taxpayer," said Beaver. "Every time I see a taxpayer I thank them for buying that coating. I did not get a scratch. That window just flapped like a sheet in the breeze."

Beaver and another colleague who survived helped others escape the building before making a run for it themselves. He said he had planned to walk the 12 miles home.

"I had walked about 7 miles, and a car coming from the other direction saw me with my shirt untucked, uniform half-on, covered with plaster," said Beaver. "They picked me up and took me the rest of the way home."

Beaver went to 28 funerals in the months after for co-workers who did not survive.

Now, he shares his story with rotary clubs, schools and other groups in the Denver area. He loves talking to young people -- not old enough to remember.

"The point that I make to them's so recent. It just happened. And it could happen again," said Beaver. "We're still fighting that battle."