SCRANTON — The anniversary of the September 11 attacks holds special meaning for a college president from Lackawanna County.
Before he led Lackawanna College in Scranton, retired Army Colonel Mark Volk was stationed at The Pentagon.
Mark Volk says he usually shies away from speaking publicly about his experience on September 11, since the memory of it is still so raw.
He was sitting only feet away from the plane’s point of impact at The Pentagon in 2001. But, the Lackawanna College president says, because it’s now been over a decade since that day, it’s more important than ever to keep the memories of it alive.
The Lackawanna College students he now oversees were only kids when retired Army Colonel Mark Volk was stationed at The Pentagon eleven years ago. It’s because of his experiences there that the anniversary of the September 11 attacks means something different to him.
“My wife and I this morning when I got up, I brought her a cup of coffee and her first comment was, ‘This is eleven extra years that we’ve had together,’” Volk said.
On September 11, 2001, Volk was heading up an office at The Pentagon where he sat and watched both planes hit the World Trade Center in New York City.
Then, not too long after, Volk heard the rumble and crash of another plane colliding with The Pentagon only feet away from his office.
“The whole building shook and then almost immediately followed by a large explosion. The lights went out and everything glowed orange as the fuel detonated. The windows blew in,” recounted Volk.
Volk was later recognized for evacuating his entire staff safely.
He was awarded the Army Soldier’s Medal for heroism and had his uniform from that day displayed at The Smithsonian in Washington DC. But, those are all distinctions Volk feels he doesn’t deserve. He says that he did what any person would have done.
“Today is really about the individuals who lost their lives, it’s about those heroes who sacrificed their lives, and it’s about the families that they left behind and the friends. As much as I’m proud of what I did, it’s not about me,” Volk said.
Mark Volk’s accounts of September 11 and The Pentagon were included in a new book called “Then Came The Fire”.
And, though he doesn’t like to talk about that day very much, Volk says it definitely helped him become the person he is now and helps in his new position as president of Lackawanna College.