Washington Times July 16, 2002
By Arlo Wagner, The Washington Times
Families from California, New Jersey and New York came to the
Pentagon yesterday to watch as two men received the nation's highest
civilian awards for their life-saving efforts September 11.
Lt. Gen. John A. Van Alstyne, who was at the Pentagon when
terrorists crashed a plane into it, presented Eric M. Jones,
26, and Steve A. DeChiaro, 43, with a Medal of Valor each.
"It was the most horrible scene that I have seen in my 36
years of service," Gen. Van Alstyne said, praising the heroes
as he pinned the medals on the left side of their chests, shook
their hands and patted their shoulders.
The terrorist attack killed 189 persons, including the five
terrorists, 59 passengers and 125 Pentagon personnel.
Watching yesterday were Mr. Jones' grandfather, Conway B.
Jones, who uses a wheelchair and was a member of the historic
all-black Tuskegee Airmen unit in World War II, and 5½-month-old
Christian DeChiaro, born four months after his father's heroics.
Neither Mr. DeChiaro's wife, Libby, of Freehold, N.J., nor
his mother, Theresa DeChiaro, 74, of Brooklyn, was surprised
that he stayed and helped evacuate the Pentagon that day.
"He's always been a helpful boy. He's always been a prayerful
boy," said his mother, who remembered her son as an altar boy
at Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"I think it's wonderful that our country acts to award them
for acts over and beyond normal," said Mr. Jones' mother, Sheila
Jones, of Oakland, Calif.
Mr. Jones is an only child. Other relatives attending were
his father, Conway B. Jones Jr., an Air Force veteran who flew
80 missions over Vietnam.
Eric Jones, a graduate student in medicine at George Washington
University, was driving to school and saw the plane crash into
the Pentagon. He parked his car and ran to the site. A firefighter
who had arrived seconds earlier had climbed a ladder, and his
clothes were burning. Mr. Jones pulled him down and helped extinguish
Meanwhile, Mr. DeChiaro, who contracts his high-tech corporation
to Defense Department projects, had just entered the Pentagon
for a meeting.
"Rather than seeking safety for himself and under extremely
hazardous conditions, he proceeded to the impact area and began
carrying people to safety," Defense officials said of the shy
"He began to drag people from that virtual hell," Gen. Van
Mr. Jones and Mr. DeChiaro remained at the Pentagon for
four days, helping save survivors, recovering bodies of those
who didn't survive and aiding in clearing debris.
With the help of Marine Maj. Dan Pantaleo, Mr. Jones recovered
a unsinged Marine flag from the fourth floor. As a symbol of
defiance against terrorism, the flag was eventually placed on
the space shuttle Endeavor and flown into space.
Mr. Jones was not finished. A volunteer firefighter and
paramedic with the Prince George's County Fire Department, he
went to New York and worked four more days in the debris left
by terrorists crashing airliners into the twin World Trade towers.
"We're proud of what we did, but we worked with so many
others who did exactly the same thing," Mr. Jones said yesterday.
"I love you all," Mr. DeChiaro said, choking back tears
as he accepted his medal. "I just hope that we, as Americans,
never forget that day."
Before presenting the medal to Mr. DeChiaro, Gen. Van Alstyne
joked, "Steve, your wife, Libby, says the last time she saw
you this nervous was when you were about to get married."
Then, Gen. Van Alstyne carried baby Christian to his father
and posed for photographers. Other relatives present included
two daughters, Victoria, 15, and Stevie, 13; Mrs. DeChiaro's
parents; two brothers; a sister; nine nephews and nieces.
"Eric, as you've shown here today, nothing makes you nervous,"
Gen. Van Alstyne said to Mr. Jones, who plans to go to medical
school and specialize in emergency medicine and trauma surgery.
Mr. Jones' grandfather was wearing the signature red jacket
of the Tuskegee Airmen, just like those worn by three other
members. A fourth airman was wearing a tan summer suit with
a large red Tuskegee badge.