Hattiesburg man remembers those he helped on 9/11

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - As people pass by ground zero in New York , The Pentagon in Washington D.C., and the site in Pennsylvania where one of the four high jacked planes crashed they recall the most frightful day in U.S. history.

Here in the Pine Belt, James Jones vividly recalls being on the front lines of that tragic day in the U.S.  It was a day he earned the military's highest medal of honor, for the lives he helped save.

Jones said, "We could feel the vibration, when we stepped out and looked over to our right we could see the fire ball start to come up."

Jones was in the army, he had only been stationed in Washington D.C. for seven months. He worked at a clinic in the Pentagon that repaired medical equipment. That morning, Jones and another Officer were sent on a mission just feet away from the explosion.

"Now where our clinic is located, is on the exact opposite side of the Pentagon from where the plane hit, the safest place you can be. Our mission for that day took us to the side where the plane impacted. We left out of the South East entrance, the plane came in and hit the East entrance directly. So, where the Pentagon comes to a point it came in and right as we stepped over the thresh hold going outside the plane hit."

Jones said everything that the Army instilled in him throughout his training, was immediately put into action.

"I knew people needed to be helped, we  were just trying to go in 3 different directions at once. The state of mind was just how do we help. I will never forget one lady specifically was burned badly on her back all the way down to her ankles. She was a civilian,she couldn't figure out why. She kept yelling that over and over. She kept screaming why? why? Why did this happen?"

Many people perished during and after the Pentagon attack but it was the heroic act of Jones and several other people that helped so many survive.

"The best part about that day that I can remember is these stretcher teams we were put on. It would be myself and my battle buddy but it was also a guy with a hairnet that worked in the cafeteria that wasn't a soldier," said Jones. "He was a civilian and he was right there next to me risking his life going into a burning building to pull people out. He didn't have the training that we had but that was the best part about it. It was just Americans as a whole."

Jones and three other military officers he was with that day received "The Soldiers Medal" for their actions at the Pentagon. It is the highest medal of honor a military officer can receive during a time of piece.

Although it has been a decade it is still difficult for Jones to talk about. Images of that tragic day remain so vivid in his mind and on every anniversary, he spends the day reflecting on a nation that came together during such a difficult time.

In addition to receiving "The Soldiers Medal" Jones was also given a special coin by the 23rd Sergeant Major of the U. S. Army, Jack Tilly as well as, an American flag, which was once flown over the Pentagon.

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