Va. man unintentionally linked to 9/11 still works with his feelings of guilt
ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) - Almost everyone alive 15 years ago remembers where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001.
For one Virginia man, remembering is just starting to be less painful.
"I think we've come a long way, I know I have. We're commemorating something rather than mourning something, I think," said Vaughn Allex, who has been working through the guilt ever since the terror attacks.
Allex was working the ticket counter for American Airlines at Dulles International Airport on 9/11. He helped travelers board Flight 77, which was headed for Los Angeles.
“These two guys come running in the front door looking around and didn't know which way to go," Allex said.
The brothers arrived late and almost missed the plane, but Allex checked their information and got them on board.
“When it first happened, I felt very guilty about checking in two of the hijackers," Allex said.
It wasn't until the next day when Allex was being interviewed by the FBI he realized what had happened. When he looked over the names of the passengers on the manifest, he immediately recognized the names of the two brothers, who investigators said helped hijack Flight 77 and crashed it into the Pentagon.
"I looked at the FBI agents and they looked at me and they knew, and I just went, ‘I did it, didn't I?’" recalled Allex. “They said, ‘You did what?’ I said, ‘I did it, I put them on the plane.’"
More than 180 people were killed.
Allex said his co-workers wouldn't talk to him, and only his family and close friends helped him through many dark days.
"It was pretty bad, it was pretty much a bottomless pit for a long time," he said.
Allex has only spoken publicly about that day a few times. On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, he was interviewed by CNN, and this week Allex did an interview with StoryCorps in Potomac Falls, Virginia.
Allex and his family live in Leesburg, Virginia. He retired from American Airlines in 2008 and now works for the Department of Homeland Security.
Even though the FBI and the FAA said Allex did not do anything wrong, he still thinks about the lives lost. As our country approaches the 15th anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday, Allex wonders if he could have helped change history.
"Hardly a day goes by when there's not some kind of reminder," he said.
Allex said he visits the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial several times a year, and on Sunday he will be driving his motorcycle again in the Rattle the Runway Ride at Dulles Airport.