Crossroads native assisted in White House Situation Room after 9/11 attacks
By BY ERIN PRADIA - EPRADIA@VICAD.COM
Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.
As John Sherman looked down the Potomac River from the Roosevelt Bridge, where he could see black smoke rising from the Pentagon, he knew he was witnessing the Pearl Harbor of this generation.
There was no traffic, with the exception of his Ford 150 pickup, and the lack of airliners flying over the city created an eerie feeling.
A native of Victoria, Sherman graduated from Industrial High School in 1988 and Texas A&M in 1992.
In 2001, Sherman worked for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, providing an intelligence source about what enemies were doing across the world. NGA also supports the Federal Emergency Management Agency in disaster-related events if they need accurate mapping or imaging information.
"Leading up to the national event, everyone was worried about a terrorist attack, but we didn't know where," Sherman said. "We knew the first plane hit the tower, as did everyone. We thought it was a pilot that had a heart attack or something. When the second plane hit the second tower, we knew immediately it was a terrorist attack."
In response to the 9/11 attacks, Sherman, 41, was assigned to the White House Situation Room with other intelligence and military officers from other branches of the military.
"You are only in there for a year or two years. The group I was with had been through a number of crises before," he said.
Sherman was stunned by the scope of the attacks, but he and the other officers kept their focus on fulfilling their duties and keeping communication strong.
"The feeling at the time was very chaotic, very hectic, but I am happy we were able to keep everything managed. We were more than just phone operators; we were ensuring that the right information was passed," Sherman said. "We were trying to make sense of a very confused situation where inaccurate information was mixed in with what was really going on. That is where our analytical backgrounds came in."
Sherman sensed he was involved in something historic.
"We were at war. That was not something that was going to go on for just a week or two," he said.
The events of 9/11, Sherman said, have had a lasting impact on his family.
His wife, Elizabeth Sherman, 42, who also works for the NGA, has been involved in counter-terrorism activities and has been deployed to Iraq to help there.
The Sherman children are both interested in going into military service. Bradley Sherman, 16, would like to join the Air Force and Savannah, 13, would like to be a Marine officer.