2002 Safety, Security and International Affairs

Michael Benedict

Put his life on the line to save others after the 9/11 Pentagon attack.

Pentagon Police Officer Michael Benedict was conducting a training class at the nearby Navy Annex Building on the morning of September 11 when he heard a plane fly directly overhead, its jet blasts shaking the building. He ran to a window and discovered that the plane had crashed into the Pentagon.

After helping to evacuate the Navy Annex Building, Benedict and two other officers took the initiative and found a patrol car they drove to the crash site. One the first officers on the scene, the plain-clothed Benedict entered the blazing building to help evacuate personnel and assist the injured despite the heavy smoke that was pouring out of every opening at the crash site.

His immediate supervisor, Pete Donaldson, described what happened next: “Showing no concern for his own safety, Benedict successfully escorted personnel to safety and retrieved wounded personnel in need of assistance to the triage area. After a short time, [he] became overwhelmed by the fire and smoke, and was forced to leave the building.”

He did not leave the scene, however, and continued to assist personnel on nearby Heliport Road until vehicles and construction equipment in the area began to ignite and explode. Benedict had to be ordered out of the area. He then helped the FBI establish a command post in the Pentagon parking lot, worked with his Pentagon Police colleagues to establish a temporary perimeter to protect the crime scene, and guarded classified material and the bodies of the deceased. Once again, Benedict was ordered to leave the area because of dangerous fire and smoke.

After the fires began to die down, he was instrumental in helping the FBI canvass the crash cite, recovering evidence and searching for the remains of those who perished in the attack.

Benedict still does not think he did anything extraordinary that day. “I was just doing my job,” he said. But, if courage and unselfish sacrifice in the face of danger are the qualities of heroism, then Michael Benedict truly is a hero.

One year after the tragedy of September 11, Benedict’s work continues. He trains new officers coming out of the academy and is known as one of the finest trainers on the force for new recruits.