U.S. Senate candidate Rob Maness ran into a friend he’d never known last week while raising money and support at the Republican National Convention.

He was meeting with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a former Air Force officer, and some other Texas soldiers.

Maness was an officer in the U.S. Air Force on 9-11, when terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 and flew it into the Pentagon. He tells the harrowing story of breaking through the rubble, then helping the injured.

At one point, Maness stood to the side of a badly bloodied and burned Army officer, holding together a broken IV tube that was administering life saving drugs. While waiting for what seemed like hours for the helicopters to arrive and evacuate, Maness chatted and prayed with the soldier who was so badly injured, he could not identify him other than by rank. 

Perry heard the story, and thinking Maness might be interested in meeting another 9-11 survivor sent his aides to find Texas State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, who was also at the Pentagon that day. Birdwell had been burned over 60 percent of his body and underwent 39 surgeries. He was famously visited in the hospital by President George W. Bush.

When they met Birdwell told his story. Maness told his, ending with waving the helicopter off to the hospital.

And then, “He said, ‘That was me’,” Maness recalled trying to fight off tears upon meeting again the solider he had helped on that day.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.