(Corey Matthews/Daily American Republic)
The Daily American Republic newspaper reported on his appearance at the Saturday banquet at the Black River Coliseum in Poplar Bluff.
The Walnut Ridge, Ark., resident was attending a training program at a brokerage firm on the 61st floor of the south tower. During an intermission, he had taken the elevator to the 43rd floor.
"I didn't know what happened until I got back up to the 61st floor," Staples said. "Then I heard the order to evacuate the south tower."
The north tower had already been hit by American Airlines Flight 11 at 8:46 a.m.
"At 9:03 a.m., a second plane (United Airlines Flight 175) hit the south tower," Staples said. "I was lucky enough to make my way out."
He heard the plane throttle up and slam into the south tower about 12 floors above his training room. He eventually made it down the crowded stairs.
"I had been out of the building for only 6-11 minutes when the south tower collapsed," Staples said. It fell at 9:59 a.m. and the north tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m.
He emphasized how the experience made him realize the importance of family and prayer.
"For three hours, my parents didn't know if I was alive or dead," Staples said. "It was three hours later before I was able to let my parents know I was okay."
He also recalled his grandmother's faith.
"My grandma told me she asked God for me to be okay," Staples said. "She told me, 'I knew you would be okay.'"
He reminded everyone that people from 70 countries were among the nearly 3,000 killed in the terrorist attacks.
The experience convinced Staples that "terrorism is one of our primary concerns." It wasn't something that just happened on the other side of the world.
"It is important we send people into office who understand the significance of their office," Staples said.
There were several veterans present, but only one from World War II. Staples told the man, "You were part of a group of people that absolutely saved the world."
The keynote speaker, Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party, emphasized how "everything changed on 9/11. It changed this nation. It changed the world."
There were people from all faiths and nationalities killed in the terrorist attacks.
"Over 600 more people were killed in the terrorist attacks than at Pearl Harbor," Smith said. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.
Smith also recounted how American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. at 9:37 a.m. and how the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 wrestled with the hijackers before the plane crashed near Shanksville, Pa., southeast of Pittsburgh.
"The first fight against terrorism didn't happen in Afghanistan. The first fight was by ordinary Americans on Flight 93. They laid down their lives for others," Smith said.
Authorities later learned the heroic actions of the Flight 93 passengers prevented the hijackers from crashing the plane into the U.S. Capitol building.
Smith also reminded everyone of what President George Bush said on 9/11, "The terrorists can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they can't shake the foundation of America."
He commended Bush for taking the necessary steps to protect Americans and to "keep the lights of freedom burning."
Approximately 300 persons attended the banquet in the Black River Coliseum.