In honor of those who were impacted by and responded to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, PenFed Credit Union unveiled a 30 x 60-foot American flag on the side of its corporate offices in Tysons, Virginia. While all Americans memorialize and mourn 9/11, the day is of particular significance to PenFed, with its signature branch inside the Pentagon. PenFed employees will participate in a moment of silence on the 18th anniversary, timed with when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon.

A large American flag drapes over PenFed’s corporate headquarters in Tysons, Virginia in honor of American heroes during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

A large American flag drapes over PenFed’s corporate headquarters in Tysons, Virginia in honor of American heroes during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

"I was working in Alexandria when I heard the news of the attacks," said James Schenck, President and CEO of PenFed Credit Union and CEO of PenFed Foundation. "After a plane hit the Pentagon, I knew I had to do something – PenFed had a branch inside the building. Some volunteers and I headed to the Pentagon to see what we could do. I'll never forget it. PenFed was open for business on September 12 and provided continuous service and support to the Pentagon community. In spite of overwhelming fear and anger, everyone rose to the situation and extended a helping hand. In that moment, I saw the best of America: the selflessness and courage of the American people. To me, this flag is a much-needed reminder of all we are and all we can be as citizens of this great nation."

"Our greatest privilege is to serve those who risk their lives on behalf of our great nation," Schenck continued. "We fly this flag in honor of the innocent Americans who lost their lives that day, as well as the first responders and service members who fought to defend American lives – both in the immediate aftermath and on the battlefield in the following months and years."  

PenFed Foundation President General John W. Nicholson, Jr. and EVP of Member Operations Jamie Gayton, although not employed at PenFed in 2001, also have vivid memories of the day that shaped the trajectory of their career.

"I was assigned to the Pentagon, and my desk was 100 feet from where the nose of the aircraft passed through the building," said General Nicholson. "However, on the actual day of the attack, we were moving into our new home. I first heard about the attack on the radio, as we had not yet connected our TVs or telephones. As soon as I heard the news of the attack and could get to a phone, I called my office. The answering machine picked up which led to my mistaken belief that my colleagues were okay. In fact, one of them suffered third-degree burns but was lucky to be alive as he had been protected from the fireball by his old-style metal desk. Sadly, everyone between his desk and the plane perished. It clarified my purpose in life, to protect our country and its extraordinary people." 

General Nicholson did just that, serving six years in Afghanistan and rising to leadership of the entire 41-nation NATO-led coalition and US Forces Afghanistan. He returned from Kabul a year ago after serving for two-and-a-half years as Commander, the longest tour of duty of any commander since the beginning of the war. He has since retired from the military, but says that "working for PenFed is a continuation of the mission which I embraced after 9/11 as we support the outstanding young men and women who continue to protect our nation and our veterans – but this time on the home front, helping them with their financial well-being, to better deal with the challenges and opportunities they face."

Gayton, a retired colonel in the US Army, also worked at the Pentagon during the time of the September 11 attacks. In the weeks following the attack on the Pentagon, he worked to officially account for the missing and the dead. After taking the first-hand accounts of survivors and those who had reentered the building to rescue those who were still inside, Gayton wrote the posthumous and valorous awards for all members within his department's purview.

"As we remember that day, there is great pain but there is also great hope," Gayton said. "Every day at PenFed, I get to work alongside the military families who have staked their lives on defending the flag that now covers our building. Our way of life and the freedoms we cherish are infinitely precious, and I'm proud to celebrate and support those who defend them."

Founded in 1935 as the War Department Credit Union, the organization's core membership is comprised of members of the defense and military communities. Following the attacks of 2001, PenFed launched the PenFed Foundation to support service members, veterans and their families. Over 140,000 members of the military community have received assistance through the Foundation's financial education, credit-building, homeownership, short-term assistance and veteran entrepreneurial support services. To learn more about PenFed's history, visit penfed.org/about-penfed. To learn more about the work of the PenFed Foundation, visit penfedfoundation.org.

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