SANTA MARIA – Retired Air Force officer Lee-Volker Cox was on duty at the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001.
"Its one of those experiences that you can't forget about and you don't want to forget about and its very important the country does not forget, forget about what happened, why it happened", Cox says, "but its one day where you also need to realize the country and you need to move on, you need to move forward, take that experience and make it a better place."
Cox was attending an intelligence briefing when the terror attacks began at the World Trade Center in New York.
"Right in the middle of the intelligence briefing, the big screens go black, they transfer from the intelligence briefing to live video feed from New York", Cox says, "the first plane had gone into the tower, the room was kind of quiet for a second, people trying to find out what was going on as the briefers were trying to tell us."
"You realize this was the meeting that had all the Air Force senior staff who are in the Pentagon", Cox adds, "as we are watching it live we see the second plane go into the building, and the room just became totally silent."
Cox was instructed to return to his office and begin coordinating relief efforts for New York City.
"I was actually looking outside my office window, which had a view of the Washington Monument, when the entire building just shook", Cox says about feeling the plane slam into the Pentagon, "It was an amazing explosion and impact into the building because the Pentagon is a huge building, I mean you can have 50,000 people working there."
Cox says it was organized confusion as the fire began spreading rapidly inside and outside the building.
"Immediately the fire alarms started going off and people knew they had to evacuate", Cox says,
"tremendous smoke, lots of smoke, you could see some flames from the top of the building where we were standing, fire engines coming in, hoses being laid, firefighters running into the building, injured people coming out of the building."
Cox says he helped with the search and rescue and triage operations.
"Seeing some very heroic events of people who are willing to put there lives out on the line in trying to protect and serve those who were having tremendous difficulties", Cox says about the scene in the immediate aftermath of the attack, "it was the smell, it was the sounds, it was the feeling of the wind, the feeling of the spray of the water, everyone knew what they had to do, and the intensity was very high, everyone's adrenaline was running quite a bit, but there wasn't a lot of conversation going on."
Cox says it was hours later when he finally returned home and called his parents.
"Dad answered the phone, said I was okay, and then the battery went dead", Cox says with a smile.
Cox says he knew only one of the 125 Pentagon personnel who died after the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 which also killed all 59 passengers and crew on board, Cox says the man's nickname was "candyman" because he went around the sprawling complex handing out hard candy to staffers.
"A few weeks later we suddenly realized the candyman's not coming around anymore, where is the candyman", Cox says, "the candyman was one of those people that didn't make it."
"(Defense) Secretary (Don) Rumsfeld said the Pentagon is not going to closed down, no one is going to close down the U.S. Military", Cox says, "he said be back in here and we were back in the office the next morning."
"The building was still on fire the next morning, the hallways still had smoke hanging in them", Cox says about going back to work, "the smell is something I will never forget, I don't know how to describe it, but it was a unique smell that I have never smelled before and it was in your hair, in your clothes, when you came back the next morning, the hallways smelled of it, for two weeks afterwards the building still had that odor from the fire."
Cox says he was inspired by the quick work in restoring the Pentagon and building the Memorial to honor the 184 victims who died there.
"To see that nothing is going to defeat us and we are committed to moving forward, I mean that part of the building was rebuilt in less than a year, that's an amazing feat", Cox says, "freedom is what we espouse, and the Pentagon stands for that and the façade of the Pentagon is still there, it still looks the same and the façade of America is always here."
Cox says it's important for all Americans to remember what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 and to continue to support the men and women protecting freedoms and liberties Americans enjoy.
"I hope we never forget, its important because, historians have said if you forget the past you are bound to repeat it", Cox says, "we need to be proud and support the men and women that are defending our freedoms, defending our freedom of religion, defending our freedoms to pursue our dreams defending our freedoms to think how we want to think as individuals and as a country."
"If we forget what happened on September 11th, that's the first step to forgetting why our people are still out there in harms way", Cox says, "they are fighting for our freedoms, which is the most important of all of our liberties, is our freedom, and that is what our adversaries fear the most, is the fact that we have the freedom to worship, think and do as we wish not as somebody tells us to do."
Wednesday, May 22 2013 1:00 PM EDT2013-05-22 17:00:26 GMT
SANTA MARIA, Calif. – With final approval from the Allan Hancock Board of Trustees, Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D. has officially been named new superintendent/president of the school. His appointment ends aMore >>
Kevin Walthers, Ph.D. has been named new superintendent/president of Allan Hancock College and will become just the fifth person in school history to hold the position on a permanent basis.More >>
Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:32 PM EDT2013-05-22 16:32:32 GMT
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – After it was delayed on Tuesday, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched early Wednesday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base. TheMore >>
After it was delayed on Tuesday, an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile was launched early Wednesday morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base.More >>
Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:17 PM EDT2013-05-22 16:17:05 GMT
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. – Caltrans has announced the public can review a Mitigated Negative Declaration/Initial Study for a safety project to realign the existing compound curve on northbound U.S.More >>
Caltrans has announced the public can review a safety project study to realign the existing compound curve on northbound U.S. Highway 101 south of the rest areas in Gaviota.More >>
Wednesday, May 22 2013 2:35 AM EDT2013-05-22 06:35:44 GMT
PASO ROBLES, Calif. - The competancy trial for a suspect who police say murdered a man at the Farmhouse Hotel nearly two years ago has been postponed. According to court documents, suspect John BarrettMore >>
PASO ROBLES, Calif. - The competency trial for a suspect who police say murdered a man at the Farmhouse Hotel nearly two years ago has been postponed.More >>