Airline employee still haunted by checking in hijackers on Sept. 11

Vaughn Allex was working the ticket counter at American Airlines at Dulles Iinternational Airport on Sept. 11, 2001, when two men arrived, late for Flight 77.

Allex followed procedure and checked the men through. He didn’t find out until the next day that those two men were among the five hijackers who crashed Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 189 people — including themselves.

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"I didn't know what I had done," Allex told StoryCorps. "I came to work and people wouldn't look at me in the eye."

Officials handed him the manifest for the flight. “I just stared at it for a second and then I looked up, I go, ‘I did it, didn't I?’ ”

Allex said people stopped talking to him, and he began to believe he was to blame for what happened on Sept. 11. He tried attending support groups but it was uncomfortable.

“How do I sit in a room with people that are, that are mourning and crying and they're like, ‘What's your role in this whole thing?’ ”

Allex was following procedure that was in place before the days of the Transportation Security Administration, when airport security was quite different from what it is today.

Allex said he has never been able to fully move past the memory. But now, he has begun talking about it.

“I feel like in some ways I've — I really have come out of a shadow over the last 15 years,” he said, “and I'm — I'm back in the light now.”

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