Where Was I? Skipping School, Actually
September 11, 2001. The night before I stayed up entirely too late, as per my usual. I was at McNeese studying Psychology. I had my Psychology 101 class that morning but decided sleep was a way better idea. I walked to class from my parents' house, and I just didn't feel like it. Mom came to my room asking if I planned on going to class, even though I am sure she knew the answer.
A few minutes later, I could hear her yelling at me from the living room. In my slumber-esque stupor, I did not recognize the panic in her voice. I specifically remember rolling over trying to ignore her fussing, but suddenly realizing there was panic in her voice. Now, I love my mother, but sometimes she gets a bit extreme.
You're going to get drafted, Russel! We are being attacked!
Growing up, I remember sitting in front of my grandmother's big RCA console TV watching the news about Desert Storm and seeing the war firsthand on television but not being too affected by it because it was all over there. That's where wars are always fought: over there. I climbed out of bed after her third "Russel" and walked down the hallway. As I turned toward the den, there she was, standing in front of the giant, at the time, 50" rear-projection TV my dad had just purchased from Conn's. I remember seeing the panic in her eyes as she was wide-eyed at the TV. Mom was an ER nurse for years, a rock, nothing could phase her. She had seen it all and done it all when it came to that ER. Yet, there she was in shock staring at the TV.
She turned to me and started yelling about how we are going to war and I would be drafted. She just kept repeating it over and over again. Her voice rings in my head every year. I turned to look at the TV to see what exactly she was probably overreacting to. I saw a close-up of a building on fire with a hole in it.
What country is this in, Mom?
We both were just staring at Dad's pride and joy of a TV.
Russel, this is in New York. We are being attacked.
That's when I read it: World Trade Center. Cue the needle ripping from the record. Nothing in my life had ever felt so real. I could feel the air moving around me, I could hear my heart in my head, I couldn't make out what anyone was saying as I stared at the TV.
Your father isn't answering the phone in the unit, I keep trying to call him.
Dad was on days working at the newly named Sasol, still in the ethylene unit during the switch from Vista to Condea Vista to Sasol. I remember talking to Dad about how Lake Charles was high up on the attack list due to our port and industries. Panic set in, but I told Mom that he was just probably making his rounds.
As we stood in front of the TV, I began to reason with her. It just had to have been an accident. Drunk pilots were the big topic at the time, maybe that's what it was. Everything I had seen as an attack leading up to this was all based on tanks and missiles, not airplanes. Suddenly, the camera that was in a wide shot swung over hard left to show another plane headed to the other tower. I remember thinking that there was no way this is happening again. Then, it did.
The phone rang. It was Dad.
Hey Boo Boo. Where's your mother?
Mom hated that in a time of crisis, he could still see the world with rose-colored glasses.
David Earl are you okay? YOUR son is going to be drafted and sent to war.
Dad always had a way of calming her down, or making her mad then calming her down. He was staying at work. They were going down to a skeleton crew if memory serves, but although they were on high alert, all was well at Sasol North America.
After that, the Pentagon was attacked, and I remember beginning to feel numb to it all. Why is this happening? Why wasn't this stopped? We watched as people threw themselves from the buildings, first responders running the opposite way of the panicked public. Everyone was covered in ash and dust.
Then, they fell. I remember thinking for a minute how beautiful they looked as they fell. These giant towers, a staple of the New York skyline, were now falling. I snapped out of it and realized how many people were stuck inside, how many were around the base of it, how many people would not be returning home as my own father would later that evening.
I read a quote today that stuck with me. I am not sure who said it, but I read it on Facebook, so it must be true.
The best way we could ever honor those lost on 9/11 is to live each day like September 12th.
There is no race, gender, or political side. In the end, the only thing that matters is each other.
The world changed twenty years ago. It will never be the same.