StoryCorps: On 9/11, he checked hijackers for Flight 77. It's haunted him since Working the ticket counter on that terrible day, Vaughn Allex checked in families and a student group. But he also checked in their plane's hijackers. And because of that, "They were just all gone."

On Sept. 11, he checked hijackers onto Flight 77. It's haunted him ever since

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is this weekend. StoryCorps and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum are recording a story for each life lost. On September 11, 2001, Vaughn Allex was working the ticket counter for American Airlines at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. Two men arrived at his counter late for Flight 77. Airport security was very different then. And Allex followed all the procedures in place at the time and checked them through. Turned out the two men were among the hijackers who crashed Flight 77 into the Pentagon, killing 189 people, including themselves.

VAUGHN ALLEX: I didn't know what I had done. It wasn't until the next day, September 12, that I started finding out what happened. I came to work, and people wouldn't look at me in the eye. And they handed me the manifest for the flight. I just stared at it for a second. And then I looked up. I go, I did, didn't I? I checked in a family. It was a retiree and his wife. I had time to talk to them. There was a student group, and I checked in a lot of those kids and parents, teachers. And they were gone. They were just all gone.

Once it became known, people didn't talk to me. And I had this wild kind of thing in my mind that everything that happened on Sept. 11 was my fault personally - that I could have changed it. I felt there was no place for me in the world. There were all these support groups. And I didn't belong there because how do I sit in a room with people that are mourning and crying? And they're, like, you know, what's your role in this whole thing? Well, I checked in a couple of the hijackers and made sure they got on the flight.

I might go weeks or months, and everything will be just going along fine. And then there'd be something that would trigger it. I was checking in somebody, and what she said was my husband got killed on Sept. 11. And what I heard was, you killed my husband on Sept. 11. You know, you don't really move past it. It's still always there in some form. But now, you know, I'm able to talk about it. I mean, I feel like, in some ways, I really have come out of a shadow over the last 15 years. And I'm back in the light now.

INSKEEP: Former ticket agent Vaughn Allex at StoryCorps in Potomac Falls, Va. Vaughn Allex retired from the airline now works for the Department of Homeland Security. And his interview will be housed at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and featured on the StoryCorps podcast.

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