I still remember the call like it was yesterday.
My phone rang just before 9 a.m. My first class wasn’t until the afternoon, so obviously I had no intention of answering the phone. When the answering machine picked up, I heard Steph’s voice.
“Josh, I need you to wake up right now,” she said in a stressed voice. “Pick up the phone.”
Hearing the distress in my friend’s voice, I got out of bed and answered.
“You need to turn on the TV,” she said.
“Why? What’s going on?”
“The World Trade Center has been attacked.”
I turned on the TV minutes before the South Tower collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001. I sat there, horrified at what I was watching.
How could this be real? This couldn’t be happening.
Scoop wasn’t in his room next door, so I called the office of the newspaper. He was there, so I immediately got on some clothes and drove over.
Scoop and I watched the TV from the offices in the Alabamian as the reports rolled in. My nerves continued to grow as the flights crashing into the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania were reported.
Steph joined us after a little bit, with the three of us huddled around the TV. Scoop was already working on a special edition of the Alabamian coverage the tragedy.
The news continued to talk about the massive rising death toll.
Steph looked and me and said what she thought was an innocent question.
“Have you talked to your dad yet?”
Scoop looked at me because he knew how I was going to react to that.
I immediately broke out into tears, hours of panic and frustration coming out.
“I can’t get a hold of my dad,” I told Steph, with tears flowing. “He was flying to Washington this morning.”
At this point, it wasn’t being reported where the crashed planes had originated. I told Scoop about my dad’s travel plans that morning, and obviously the crash into the Pentagon had me in a panic.
I had been trying for hours to reach my dad on his cell phone with no success. His phone was turned off and going straight to voicemail.
I had already talked to my grandparents and they also were having no success reaching my dad.
I can’t even begin to describe how horrifying the feeling was, not knowing if my dad was on one of the planes.
Finally around 1 p.m., my dad called me back. He had made it to Atlanta before his flight was grounded. Scoop and Steph embraced me as my cries turned from frustration to relief.
However, a few hours later my dad called me with bad news. Being one of the top air-to-ground defense leaders in the National Guard, he was one of the first members to be called into active duty again. He was driving from Atlanta and stopping through Birmingham to see me for the last time in a while.
I was in no shape to drive that day, so Scoop drove me to meet my dad before he made his way to Florida. I didn’t see my dad again for almost a year.
I really don’t know how I could have made it through that day without Scoop and Steph. They bottled up some of their emotions to make sure that I felt their love and support.
They weren’t the only ones to provide support, though.
That semester was my first as an active member of AKL. I made my way up to the hall. Several of the guys already knew about what I had dealt with that day and the rest were caught up to speed.
I can’t even describe the feeling of support I got from my brothers over the coming weeks as I dealt with my dad being activated.
Looking back on 9-11, it breaks my heart to think of all the lives lost. I couldn’t imagine what the people who lost friends and family are going through on this 10th anniversary.
Even today, when I watch documentaries on 9-11 I find myself getting choked up.
For me though, I learned a lot about myself on that day and the following weeks.
That day helped me realize how important my dad is to me. While we didn’t have the closest relationship when I was growing up, the thought of losing him that day was horrible. I was so thankfully he was all right and I feel like we became a lot closer after that day.
I also fully realized what the meaning of brotherhood was after 9-11. My AKL brothers gave me so much moral support and love. That was an amazing feeling, and for the first time, made we realize how special it was to be a part of an affiliation that is binding for life.
So on the 10th anniversary of the greatest tragedy of our lives, I am thankfully to have great friends, family and brothers. I hope everyone else is able to take something positive from 9-11 like I am.
Where we once were divided, now we stand united. We stand as one — Undivided.