Survivor and Military Leader Reflect on 9/11

Stufflebeem & Mattox

A Roanoke man who survived the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 recalls that day. Josh Mattox was in New York City training for a new job in finance. Here's his story in his own words.

"I was in the World Trade Center. I was working on the 61st floor of the South Tower. You just heard like a boom and all these papers and debris and stuff that was on fire floating into our windows. So we immediately thought, whoa. What was that? Nobody was panicked in the least bit because the building didn't shake.

From the time we made it from 61 to 54, we were on 54 and that's when the plane hit the South Tower. From that moment on, that ignited panic. We got to 43 and I'll never forget it was a dead standstill for 5 or 10 minutes. That's when people started crying and people were praying. You really thought, what is going on here? This is not good. Then it came to a bottleneck and there were all these people trying to get up this one flight of stairs and once you got up to that you were outside.

I got out, about 75 percent of the way out of that stack of hundreds of people. That's when the building started falling. So I was able to start running. I was out about five minutes before it fell down. I'll never know. Nobody will know. But it's like why do you at 22, with nobody to take care of, you walk out of there unscathed and all these people who had children and families and mortgages and all those things are gone. You'll never be able to explain that one."

In the days following the attack on America, retired Admiral John D. Stufflebeem, the man who briefed the international press following the attack on our nation, was on TV every day.

Admiral Stufflebeem recalls where he 12 years ago in his own words:

"When the attacks occurred, I was physically in Annapolis, Maryland in a seminar with midshipmen at the Naval Academy. A few minutes later, a fellow burst into the room and said the second building of the Twin Towers has been hit by another airplane. I think it was clear to everyone at that point. I think we realized we were being attacked. The state police from Maryland came back and escorted me from Annapolis back to the bridge to Virginia where the Virginia State Police picked up. I was told to go home and try to get some sleep, which was hard to do because I hadn't seen anything, I'd just heard reports. So when I got home all I could do was watch to see what unfolded on TV as we all did and later that afternoon I was called in by the Pentagon, was brought in by a policeman and stayed there for several days after that.

By Sunday after we were hit, I found out things would change for me. I was asked to go see the chairman of the joint chiefs, who was then General Shelton, and he told me that the secretary wanted a special project, somebody who could pull from all over the country whatever resources would be needed and to start to put together a book full of options to respond. We had a lot of good information about who it likely was and where it came from. The question became, how do we get the forces in there and how do we start to conduct the operations to go after the forces that set this whole thing up. It only got easier, only because we just started getting used to the numbness of the chaos."