“I will never forget.”

“I will never forget.”

This is as close to blogging as I will ever get.  For me, 9/11/2001 is as painfully vivid as it is for countless others, but it also represents an odd turning-point in my life.  I say “odd” because I wasn’t personally affected – I didn’t personally know anyone in New York (or DC or Pennsylvania) at the time.  I was just a sophomore in college, going through the motions like any other pre-autumn day.

Without the bleeps and bloops from a smart phone (I still hadn’t gotten a cellphone) or the onslaught of notifications yet to come from the nonexistent Facebbok or Twitter, I hurriedly walked to the bus stop to catch one of the campus shuttles – I was late to my 8AM American Literature class.  I remember hearing the morning radio show on the boombox crammed-in next to the bus driver’s steering wheel.  What was normally a mélange of localized humor and top-40 music had become a radio talk show reminiscent of NPR.

The DJs were talking about a plane crashing into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.  The only thoughts I could muster on my sleepy-eyed commute to class was how could someone fly so dangerously close to a skyline, yet alone a skyline in NYC?  I found a seat in my class, and I remember some whispers between the 100+ students in the room, but I don’t think anyone realized the severity of the occurrence.

On the shuttle ride to my next class (as they were back-to-back, cross-campus) it was evident that this was not an accident.  The news of a second plane hitting the other tower came to light.  As I walked into the 100+ capacity classroom for Psychology, even the professor had something to say.  Vaguely, I remember him mentioning something about normalcy, that the intent of terrorism was to disrupt our lives, and the best thing to do was to charge forward – for the sake of our psyche.  The rest of that day was a blur, as we all frantically looked for a television and a phone.  I wound up in the dorm room of one of my friends from high school, all 9 of us huddled around the television.  I borrowed someone’s cellphone to call home, as I knew my Dad would be working… at the airport.

My Dad was working at DFW airport (at the time, the second or third busiest airport in the nation) and I remember him telling me to watch out.  A mild hysteria had erupted on our campus, as we are adjacent to the state capitol – where the newly elected President W. Bush had been Governor less than a year ago.  In fact, there were a few anthrax scares and numerous campus-wide messages had been sent over email, notifying us of emergency precautions and procedures.  Meanwhile, my Dad had relayed to me that he had been at the airport for consecutive shifts, monitoring the tarmac with armed officials seemingly everywhere.  I was under the impression that he was also armed.

Amidst the perpetually looping footage of the Pentagon attack, the WTC collapse, and the plane crash in Pennsylvania, I could not help but feel numb.  I had just turned 20 a few days before, but in hindsight this was my transition into adulthood.  Yes, technically adulthood should have hit at the age of 18, but it’s hard to mentally connect with the “adult” concept when you are constantly calling home to ask for money, staying up late drinking, or contemplating skipping class for the third consecutive time.  I did not suddenly mature on 9/11, but certainly a bit of innocence was lost to the numbness and cruelty of “real life”.  In the coming months came the stories and images of all of the events of that day – all of which comes back into focus on a yearly basis – Welcome to the Real World.

I have never forgotten.  RIP.

Some amazing images from National Geographic

3 Comments

  1. Melanie
    September 11, 2012

    Hi Rico,

    Thanks so much for writing this inspirational post. I also remember being a sophomore at UT and my memories feel just as vivid. Feeling reflective and hopeful today.

    Reply
  2. Edeltrudes C. de Leon
    September 11, 2012

    Hello! son, I read your article regarding 911 and I was deeply touched with your feelings . Transition into adulthood is tough to undergo especially compounded by the NYC tragic incident. We were all affected by the situation; no one was ever ready for the loss of thousands of innocent lives..It will be always instilled in my heart and memory what the numerous victims and their families went through.and felt sorry for them. All I can do was to say prayers at the horrific day.. and Counted my / our blessings and thank GOD for the lives that we are given..Thank you for sharing your insight. I am lucky to be your and EC’s mother…

    Reply
  3. Enrico de Leon Sr
    September 11, 2012

    Yes, we will never forget… I feel my back growing hair on every recollection of what had transpired on that day…… the day I was in the warroom of American Airlines DFW airport getting some printout of the day’s work when the monitors started flashing image of a plane crashing on one of the towers……..

    Thanks son for posting, truly inspiring thoughts.

    Reply

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