Survivor recalls Sept. 11 attack

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Van Walworth of Nashville, Tenn. entertains a crowd Tuesday during a Sept. 11 ceremony at Patriot Outdoors. Walworth sang songs that were inspired by 9/11.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Penny Bailey remembers watching in amazement as firefighters rushed into the Pentagon trying to find survivors of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, despite orders to fall back.

Bailey was working in the Pentagon at the time of the attack.

“Every fire department within 30 to 100 miles was there,” said Bailey, a retired Air Force officer who moved to Clovis this year with her husband, who is the senior physician at Cannon Air Force Base.

Bailey shared her story of how she survived the Sept. 11 attack Tuesday with an audience of about 60 people who came to honor first responders in Clovis and Curry County and remember the victims of the terror attack. The event was held at the Patriot Outdoors sports center in Curry County, where Bailey works.

Bailey said moments before the attack, she was helping a general plan an October conference in the Pentagon. She said they were about to go farther down the hallway when she asked to go to her office. Bailey said she wanted to check on her daughter, who stayed home sick from school.

Just as the door to her office shut, she said she felt the building shake. A Boeing 757 crashed into a section of the Pentagon where she had just shown the general around, killing about 140 people. One of the victims was former Eastern New Mexico University basketball player Ron Milam, who worked at the Pentagon.

“God, literally, saved me that day,” she said.

As she left the building looking for her husband, who was also stationed at the Pentagon, she witnessed the heroism of the firefighters and the police officers at the scene.

“We felt safe,” she said. “Even though we had just been attacked, we felt safe.”

Patriot Outdoors owner Stephen Powell said a Sept. 11 commemoration event is something he would do annually.

“We wanted to do this to ensure our community can see and be reminded of how patriotic we, as Americans, should be,” he said.

Representatives from Clovis and Curry County police and fire departments received plaques from the sports outlet.