September 11, 2001, is a day no American will soon forget, especially Colonel Rob Maness.
Col. Maness was a Major in the U.S. Air Force at the time, working as a Nuclear Operations Officer assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon.
When the plane hit the Pentagon that fateful day, Col. Maness tells Independent Journal Review that he was one of the last people to escape the building:
“I came outside and found that doctors and medics had set up an emergency treatment area. The Chaplin called me over to a gurney where there was a man badly injured. His IV was broken, so I had to hold together the IV line in order for it to stop leaking.”
He says he knew it was an Army officer, but didn’t catch the man’s name — he was too focused on keeping him from falling into unconsciousness:
“I talked to him when he was in great pain, but tried to comfort him.
For 15 years I never knew who he was; I didn’t know whether he had lived or not. I volunteered to go back in the Pentagon and put out the fire right after I helped him. I’ve been thinking about him every day of my life — he was the last survivor I saw that day.”
Fast forward to 2016, and Col. Maness is now running for the U.S. Senate representing Louisiana.
The conservative, retired military commander recently attended the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he met with Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and other veterans.
But their meeting for advice and support on his U.S. Senate race quickly took a turn no one saw coming:
“Gov. Perry came in with Marcus Luttrell, John Teigen — who survived the Benghazi attack — and a couple other folks. We were talking and he knew I had been in the Pentagon during 9/11. He said, ‘Rob, you’ve got to meet this guy, he was in the Pentagon during 9/11, too.’
We got to talking and he told me his story about him getting pretty badly injured, badly burned on the right side of his face and body. Sure enough, it turns out Gov. Perry wanted to make sure I met this man, Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell, who is the person I helped save that fateful day.”
Maness says there wasn’t a dry eye in the house after the two 9/11 survivors met:
“God is good. He answered a prayer I’ve been saying every day. I’ve had a lot of water go under [the] bridge, but I’m glad he’s alive, healthy and has a family. We both cried.”
Though the pair wasn’t able to talk much further about it, the Air Force veteran says he’s just “glad he [Birdwell] remembered” there was a person who helped hold his IV line together:
“It was just a good feeling that in the midst of all the bad that’s happened in the world, something good can happen, as well.”
Col. Maness plans on keeping in touch with Sen. Birdwell, even reaching out to the senator next week to see if he’d be willing to help with the Colonel’s own Senate race.