Eric Jones and Steve De Chiaro just happened to be at the Pentagon when the plane hit on Sept. 11, but what the two men did next saved countless lives.
The two civilians will receive the Medal of Valor today in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
The award, which recognizes acts of heroism in the face of danger, is the highest honor the Defense Department bestows on civilians for acts of courage and valor.
De Chiaro, 43, of Freehold, N.J., is the president of DSCI, a defense contracting firm. He was heading to a briefing when chaos erupted. Instead of evacuating, he rushed back in to help people.
Jones is a 26-year-old graduate student at George Washington University, who is also a volunteer firefighter/paramedic. He was driving to school when the plane hit.
Below is an excerpt of Jones' diary, called Stubborn Defiance, of what he saw on Sept. 11, and in the days that followed, as he assisted in rescue and recovery efforts at the Pentagon, and at the World Trade Center.
The hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men.
— Henry David Thoreau
A hero is no braver than anyone else;(s)he is only brave five minutes longer.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
I dedicate this to the men and women whom are loath to give themselves credit for the acts of courage and heroism they displayed following the attacks of September 11. They do not want recognition, they do not want attention, and they certainly do not want to be referred to as heroes. They feel that they were, "just doing their jobs", but what I witnessed was so much more. To my heroes,
Eric Jones PGFD
Three months have passed since the day that shattered our innocence. The nightmares are becoming less frequent, but I still cannot think about all that I have seen. It is very difficult for me to write about these events, and I feel uncomfortable speaking about them with anyone who was not there. However, I realize that my intimate involvement with both the Pentagon and New York recovery operations gives me a unique perspective on possibly the most historically significant event of my generation. The actions of human's inhumanity toward fellow human would be nearly too much for one to bear, were those actions not offset by some equally magnificent acts of compassion and humanity. I have seen the best of people, in their responses to the actions of the worst of people, and it is a few of these countless acts of heroism, courage, and kindness that I would like to share with you.