Little Rock FBI agents recall agency's response to 9/11 while moving buildings

Agents and analysts with Little Rock's FBI office were in the process of moving into their current headquarters on Shackleford West Boulevard on September 11, 2001, leaving the agency scrambling to set up a command post in the wake of largest terrorist attack on US soil. (Photo: KATV)

The dozens of employees at Little Rock's FBI field office found out just like everyone else, they watched it all play out on television.

At the time, Special Agent Jerry Spurgers was a field agent primarily tasked with criminal investigations. Spurgers remembers getting to work on September 11, 2011 - a fellow agent told him he had to see what was going on.

"I remember we all went into the supervisor's office, a small office, and several of us crowded around - we watched the second plane strike," recalled Spurgers.

They watched the worst terrorist attack to take place on American soil inside the agency's new home on Shackleford West Boulevard, less than a mile from their former offices inside Two Financial Centre Drive. Agents and analysts had just begun moving in the days prior to the attack.

"We didn't have things set up yet," recounted Intelligence Analyst Margaret Crutchfield. "We were still bringing boxes in."

Despite the apparent hurdle FBI employees had to overcome 17 years ago, Crutchfield said she remembers everyone dropping everything to address the four coordinated terrorist attacks carried out in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon outside Washington.

"Executive management and everyone, they just got together - they pulled together and set up a command post," said Crutchfield. "We didn't even know where the command post was."

Crutchfield remembered seeing computers quickly set up, and a hotline established for reports of suspicious activity. The information phoned in was researched by analysts like Crutchfield and forwarded onto agents like Spurgers out in the field. Spurgers said nearly all of the agents he worked with were reassigned to the agency's newly created Joint Terrorism Task Force.

"Someone looking at the Lock and Dam for an extended period of time, someone taking pictures of Arkansas Nuclear One at Russellville - just all of those sort of things," said Spurgers. "Every time we had one of those, we were doing a personal response."

Spurgers said every report of suspicious activity was taken seriously; agents trying to assess Arkansas's vulnerabilities and take account of resources necessary for response to a potential terrorist attack in the Natural State. Memories of the Oklahoma City Bombings quick to flood the minds of agents who recalled that at one point the former TCBY building, now Simmons Bank Tower, was considered a possible target for convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh.

"The fact that we're in the Heartland, we didn't think that we were safe at all simply because we weren't a metropolis," said Spurgers. "In fact, to me personally, I've always thought we were more of a target."

Agent Spurgers said he recalls being told on 9/11 that he needed to have a bag packed and ready to go to deploy to the east coast, and his supervisors were unsure when he would return. Spurgers said he wouldn't leave until three weeks later, tasked with scouring the Staten Island landfill for evidence.

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