VCU Journalism Teacher Next to Pentagon on 9/11

October 11, 2011

By Justin James
VCU InSight

RICHMOND, Va.- It’s a memory that is still with her ten years later.

As the Virginia Commonwealth University campus reflected on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mary Ann Owens, a journalism instructor in VCU’s School of Mass Communications, described how she was next to the Pentagon that day.

“All of a sudden the noise was too intense. It is an aviation sound area, it was too much, I turn my head, and there was the nose of the plane,” Owens said.


American Airlines Flight 77 had flown right over her car as it was stuck in Washington D.C. traffic just before slamming into the Pentagon. Owens’ face has slight scarring and discoloration to this day.

Owens was on her way to work as a copy editor for the Gannett newspaper chain.

“Everything I learned as a journalist and as a Girl Scout came together in that one moment. I needed to survive but I needed to get the shots.”

Besides helping another motorist, she paid $20 for a disposable camera to take pictures. Only one came out (above)–newspapers and websites all over the world published it, notable because it was so early in the disaster and before the Pentagon’s roof collapsed.

Owens says that even though so much time has passed, the details remain crystal clear. She says she’s still angry towards those responsible,
admitting her glee upon hearing of the death of Osama Bin Laden this summer.

In
the end, though, Owens says that she is acutely aware that her life could have very well ended that day. From the plane and Pentagon workers, 184 people died. Owens says knowing she’s not among them has made her
grateful for each and every day.