DULLES, Va. -- Most of us who were alive probably remember exactly where we were on 9/11.
For Vaughn Allex of Leesburg, that memory is especially painful. He was an airline station agent at Dulles who checked in two of the hijackers. And for years, he's struggled with feelings of guilt.
Allex remembers the brothers came in late, and if he wasn’t so efficient, they might not have made the flight. He ran through a set series of questions: “Did you pack your own bag? Has it been in your possession?” He flagged them so they couldn’t get on the plane without their bags, but they ultimately passed through security.
It wasn’t until he returned to the airport on September 12 and FBI agents showed him the manifest that he realized what had happened. “I did it, didn’t I?” he said.
He was haunted by the memories of others he checked onto the doomed plane: a retired couple, children on a National Geographic trip.
He considered group therapy, but always felt he couldn’t face people who had lost loved ones – always felt like he was responsible.
He’s finally recovered. Writing and talking about it has helped. So has going to work at the Department of Homeland Security. But anytime the sky is especially blue, “9/11 blue,” the feelings come back.
On Sunday, Vaughn Allex will climb on his motorcycle at Dulles with scores of others, and Rattle the Runway with a commemorative ride to the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial. There he'll walk among the benches dedicated to some of those he checked in, and others he knew.
And like a lot of us, he'll remember.