Men who saved others in 9-11 terrorist attack, near drowning to be honored
A Virginia man inside the Pentagon when terrorist hijackers crashed into the Arlington, Va., building on Sept. 11, 2001, and Tennessee man who saved a drowning mother and her child will be honored Saturday for their extraordinary valor and courage as the latest inductees into The Citadel’s Arland D. Williams Society.
The Arland D. Williams Society was created in 2000 to recognize Citadel graduates who have distinguished themselves through community service. It is named for Arland D. Williams, Citadel Class of 1957. The ultimate example of service to others, Williams died in the icy Potomac River in 1982 saving five fellow passengers aboard Air Florida flight 90 after it crashed into the 14th Street Bridge in Washington, D.C.
Paul Gonzales, ‘76, of Annandale, Va., and Jack Knox, ‘53, of Muncie, Pa., will become the 14th and 15th inductees during Saturday’s military dress parade at The Citadel. The Homecoming Weekend parade begins at 11 a.m. on Summerall Field.
Gonzales distinguished himself when with no thought to his own personal safety, and with life threatening injuries of his own, he led four co-workers to safety through a raging fire thereby saving their lives in one of the worst terrorist attacks in American history.
Gonzales was the deputy comptroller for the Defense Intelligence Agency working in the Pentagon on that history changing day. Seven of 18 employees in his office were killed. More would have perished if not for the bravery displayed by Gonzales that day as he crashed through his office looking for an escape route for himself and his colleagues.
“Paul Gonzales displayed uncommon valor under horrific conditions and without regard to his own safety and put into play those qualities that are the cornerstone of Citadel graduates - placing the safety and well being of others ahead of oneself,” said Mike Rogers, executive director of The Citadel Alumni Association.
Knox, a former Citadel football player, distinguished himself on Dec. 24, 1956, in Nashville, Tenn., when he rescued a young woman and her infant daughter from drowning in Tennessee’s Cumberland River.
Knox, an engineer employed by a bridge company’s drafting department, was nearby when the mother jumped from a bridge and into the river. He spotted a “bundle of something” in the river and immediately dove in and rescued the infant. He then returned to the river to rescue the mother who was clinging to a steel retaining post and about to wash downstream.“The mother and daughter survived the ordeal thanks to the quick reaction and heroic efforts of Jack Knox,” Rogers said. “Again, a Citadel graduate placed the safety of others ahead of himself.”