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13th Sep 2022

Man who checked in terrorist onto 9/11 flight says it still haunts him

Charlie Herbert

Man who checked in terrorist onto 9/11 flight says it still haunts him

People couldn’t look him in the eye the next day

The man who checked in the terrorists who crashed Flight 77 into the Pentagon on 9/11 said it still haunts him to this day.

On September 11, 2001, four passenger planes were hijacked by terrorists who intended to crash them into important US buildings.

Most notably, two of the planes struck the World Trade Center, killing almost 3,000 people.

But two other planes were also hijacked.

American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon on the same day, killing 189 people.

A fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was heading for Washington DC and was supposed to crash into the US Capitol Building.

However, passengers on the flight were able to gain control of the plane and crash it into a field. All 44 on board were killed.

The man who checked in the two terrorists into Flight 77 was Vaughn Allex. He was working for American Airlines at the ticket counter of Dulles International Airport, Virginia, on that fateful day, and has revealed it still haunts him.

He spoke to Story Corps about the day, and remembered how the two men came rushing up to his check-in desk, saying they were late for their flight.

Those two men were Salem and Nawaf Al-Hazmi, brothers who were part of the five man team that hijacked the American Airlines flight and crashed it into the Pentagon.

189 people were killed after hijackers crashed Flight 77 into the Pentagon (Getty)

He recalled: “The check-in was odd. The two that I checked in, two brothers, one was kind of gruff and the other one was standing a couple of paces behind him.

“And this sounds odd, but this is what caught my attention. He was almost dancing, he was moving from foot to foot and grinning and looking around, and my thought was, here’s somebody that’s never been on an airplane and boy is this guy excited.

“And I kind of watched him for a couple of minutes as we went through the whole check. And he was totally unresponsive as far as whatever we asked him to read, to look verbally. He just smiled and danced and was oblivious to what was going on.

After checking them onto the flight, Allex didn’t fully realise what had happened until the next day when he went into work and was spoken to by the FBI.  He said that “people wouldn’t look at me in the eye.”

Allex remembers many of the other people he checked into Flight 77 that day, and spoke about how difficult it was to come to terms with 9/11.

He said: “I checked in a family that 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 the parents, teachers. They were gone, they were just all gone. Once it became known people didn’t talk to me.

“I felt that 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 ‘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.”

There was personal guilt Allex felt as well. Along with having known all of the crew on the flight who he had worked with “for years,” the day before he had also encouraged his longtime co-worker and close friend MJ Booth to catch Flight 77.

Speaking to ABC last year, he explained that she considered flying to Chicago or Dallas to connect to Las Vegas, but Allex encouraged her to take flight 77 instead and connect through Los Angeles.

While it’s something that has haunted him ever since, it is only in recent years that he has been able to talk about it.

But there is no way he could have known what the men he let on the flight were about to do. All Allex saw at the time was two passengers rushing to get on their flight.

Many of his friends and colleagues have told him he was just doing his job.

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