Lubbock 9/11 survivor reflects on experience

Lubbock 9/11 survivor reflects on experience

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

For Retired Col. Lou Ortiz, it is as if the September 11 terror attacks happened just yesterday. 

He had just started in the Pentagon and was sitting through orientation. 

"One of the proctors came into the classroom and whispered in our instructors ear," Ortiz said. "About 30 seconds later a big explosion hit the building and it literally shook our seats."

He was in the south section, one corner away from where the American Airlines flight 77 slammed into the building.

"About the time we made our way to the parking lot people were telling us to get away from the building, literally screaming at the top of their lungs, get away from the building there's another aircraft inbound," Ortiz said. "So we ran across 395 and the underpass of 395 to Pentagon City."

There was no public transit, no communications, no way of calling home to let his family know that he had made it out alive.

"They had no idea what happened. All you know is the Pentagon has been struck and you don't know the extent of who was in there and how many," Ortiz said. "None of that news was forthcoming at that point. For all they knew I was laid up somewhere or didn't know if I had made it out or whatever."

The first word his family received of his well being was when he walked in the door of his home.

"I came walking in the door and we had a big emotional reunion," Ortiz said. "That was pretty special, but also somewhat heartbreaking because you knew that things would never be the same."

While what took place on that tragic day was devastating, the attack itself is not what leaves a lasting impression for Ortiz.

"It was one of those rare moments where everybody was of the same mind," Ortiz said. "Of course we're a divided country since that time but for that moment and immediate aftermath of that everyone's focused on being Americans."

He said that unity seen in the aftermath of the attacks has faded over the years and is something this country could use a little more of today.

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