By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Bob Chesnut was inside the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.
On Thursday, he was at the Tupelo Veterans Museum to share that experience by presenting a piece of history taken from the site of the tragedy.
Chesnut, a retired Army general, donated a fragment of limestone that was part of the Pentagon when the plane that had been taken over by terrorists hit the building, killing 184 people, plus five hijackers, and injuring hundreds more.
More than 100 people showed up at the Oren Dunn City Museum in Ballard Park for the event. Chesnut had kept the stone for the past nine years and decided it was time to share it with the rest of Lee County.
“This piece of stone was a part of the Pentagon at the point of impact, so it is a part of history,” said Chesnut. “I wanted to give this stone to the museum as a way to honor those 182 men and women who died that day. I also wanted to bring a piece of history to Tupelo. Everyone may not be able to travel to see the Pentagon, so they can come here to see a piece of it.”
Museum Curator Tony Lute was overwhelmed with emotion when Chesnut made his presentation. Lute tried to speak to the crowd several times during the presentation but no words came from his mouth. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he was finally able to utter, “Thank you.”
Tupelo City Council President Fed Pitts, a former Army National Guard Reserve member, commended Chesnut and Lute for their contributions to the military and history.
“This museum is one of Tupelo’s best-kept secrets,” said Pitts. “It’s a remarkable place where our young people can come and learn and get a real taste of history. Mr. Lute has done a great job here and many people appreciate this place.”
Even though the stone looks like an ordinary rock, Chesnut’s experience on 9/11 gives it a deeper meaning.
“I lost a secretary and an executive officer and several good friends in the Pentagon that day,” said Chesnut. “So this is a day I will never forget. I hope no one forgets it. I want to make sure we remember the men and women who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, and I want people to remember all the other men and women who have died defending our country and those who are still defending it. We owe it to these people to never forget.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.