NO.1 David Wherley Jr.
Witnessed Event: U.S. Response to September 11, 2001
On September 11, 2001, David Wherley Jr. was the commander in charge of the 113th Fighter Wing at Andrews Air Force base, in Maryland. After the attack on New York City he took orders from the Secret Service to dispatch a fleet of aircraft to protect the White House and the Capitol. Wherley was an important 9/11 witness. He played a role in ordering the tactics used by the U.S. government in response to the terrorist activity. Wherley was mentioned on multiple occasions in the 9/11 Commission report. He later acted as the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, from 2003 to 2008.
On June 22, 2009, David Wherley and his wife Ann boarded a Red Line Washington Metro train (#214) in Northeast Washington, D.C. While waiting for their train to leave Fort Totten station, it was struck by an oncoming Red Line train. The Wherley’s train was rear-ended at a high speed. Nine people were killed in the accident, including David Wherley and his wife. It was the deadliest crash in the history of the Washington Metro. Several survivors were trapped in the rubble for hours, and approximately 80 people were injured.
A preliminary investigation found that the accident occurred when the replacement of a track circuit component failed, which prevented certain signals from being reported. Survivors described the crash as like “hitting a concrete wall.” According to Daniel Kaniewski, a former Bush administration homeland security official, the overall emergency response to the event was “calm and ordered.” He indicated that the U.S. response “during extraordinary incidents has significantly improved” since September 11, 2001.