Rugby native working in Pentagon on 9/11 looks back

Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 12:13 PM CDT
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RUGBY, N.D. (KFYR) - The tragedy took place in New York, but the entire nation felt the effects of 9/11.

Especially for one North Dakota man who was working in the Pentagon when the building was struck.

Gary Holm’s grandparents homesteaded in North Dakota, and the family established its roots in Rugby.

But his connections to his home state are far from just geographic.

Gary, a UND graduate, served in the Army just before serving in the Gov. Link Administration under then-Lt. Gov. Wayne Sanstead.

Throughout his time in North Dakota, he was a regular in state politics, including holding party positions, and running for statewide office.

He became a federal programs director in the Department of Public Instruction and the director of the ND Public Employees Association.

Holm was working for the Army Budget Office in the Pentagon.

He describes a beautiful day after a long weekend.

He was in his office when the plane hit the building. That office was 100 feet away from the destruction, and was destroyed by the smoke and water.

“There was an emergency exit door which led outside the Pentagon. We couldn’t get the door open which resulted in some panic, frustration and desperation. One coworker who was panicking kept on saying ‘we’re all going to die’. After numerous attempts we were able to force the door open and escape the office and make our way outside under billowing smoke,” Holm wrote.

He and his colleagues turned around and watched the building burn.

Inside the building was his friend Col. Dave Scales who was down the hallway. He lost his life during the attack.

Gary, like many others, took mandatory counseling.

“For months after the attack I would instinctively jump at any loud noise.  About a year later I unexpectedly broke down and cried about the attack,” he said.

Holm didn’t return to the Pentagon. His office was moved to Virginia, and he was transferred to the Office of Chief Army Reserve. Some of his coworkers never went back to their jobs.

He said he “never” talks about 9/11 with his colleagues.

Today, Gary is retired and lives a quiet life with his wife. He stays busy with yard work and studying his family’s history.

While he traces his family’s lineage, it’s his future family members who will be looking back at his story.

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