Former airline ticket agent recalls helping 9/11 hijackers board Pentagon flight and fight guilt

A former American Airlines ticket agent who recorded two hijackers involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks lived with the decision for two decades, making him feel guilty for allowing them to board the crashed flight on the Pentagon.

Vaughn Allex was working at Dulles International Airport in Virginia when two men – Salem and Nawaf Al-Hazmi – rushed into the terminal and looked lost when they approached his counter, he said in an interview with ABC News. The couple had purchased first-class tickets and were late to board Flight 77, which then deliberately crashed into the Pentagon, killing 125 inside and all 64 passengers and crew – including the five hijackers – aboard the airliner.

“I blame myself, I thought, you know, if I had done something different, if I hadn’t let them do it, if I was just telling the officers, these two guys are late, let them take it. the next flight. We have one at noon. That’s okay, “Allex told the media in an interview at the airport.

After asking if they had packed their own luggage, Allex booked them on the flight and flagged them up for extra security after failing to answer basic check-in questions.

“The recording was strange. The two I recorded, two brothers, one was a little gruff and the other was standing a few steps behind him. And it sounds strange, but that’s what attracted it. my attention. He was almost dancing, he was moving from foot to foot and smiling and looking around, and my thought was, here is someone who has never been on a plane and this guy is excited, ”Allex said.

“And I kind of watched him for a few minutes as we went through all the screening. And he was totally unresponsive to anything we asked him to read, to watch verbally. He just smiled and danced and was oblivious to what was going on, ”he added. “This is the picture I have, it’s the two standing there and the one dancing, that was the strangest thing.”

It wasn’t until the next day that Allex, who retired from American Airlines in 2008 and now works for the Transportation Security Administration, realized those two passengers were two of the hijackers.

An airline lawyer summoned him to an office where two FBI agents handed him a passenger manifest for Flight 77.

“I started going through the list and saw the names of the two people that I registered, and at that point and that moment, that’s when I looked at it. and I said, ‘I did it, didn’t I?’ And they said, “What have you done? And I said, “Those are the two I put on,” “Allex said.” I think they, they knew exactly who they were looking for, but they wanted me to come to that conclusion. “

“And once we did, the interview was strictly focused on these two people,” he continued. “And the rest is history, that the whole deal came back, I didn’t know everything about September 11 until that time September 12 – I didn’t realize I had registered two of the hackers. air.”

The fact that Allex advised his colleague to take Flight 77 for a trip to Las Vegas made his guilt worse. She was planning to fly to Chicago and connect to Las Vegas.

“I said, first of all, it’s a better flight. It’s a transcontinental flight. You get a meal and a movie and it’s relaxing.” he remembers. “She said that sounded good, but that she had never written a post that way and we were just switching to e-tickets. Can I help her? So I wrote her post down. from Dulles to Los Angeles on a connecting flight to Las Vegas. And then the next day I saw that she had taken the flight on the ticket I wrote down. “

Smoke rises from the southwest E-ring of the Pentagon building on September 11, 2001 in Arlington, Virginia, after a plane crashed into the building and triggered a massive explosion. (Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images)
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

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He began to feel better about his role in the deadly leak after purchasing the 9/11 Commission report which detailed the missteps of government agencies that failed to uncover the Al Qaeda plot.

“The turning point for me, I had been interviewed by the 9/11 Commission. And it wasn’t until the 9/11 Commission Report went out and bought the book and here is this book with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages, and I’m on page three. I have a small paragraph and a footnote, footnote number 12. “

“That’s when it started to get better. That’s when I went – oh my God,” he added. “There were so many other people involved, there were so many innocent people who just broached it. And I had just a tiny little bit of it for five minutes. But before that, it was – it was was terrible. “

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