Anthony Fomin, Unsplash

20th Anniversary Memories of 9/11 as a Social Worker

09:00 September 09, 2021
By: Keith John Paul Horcasitas

Were you there when they terrorized the Twin Towers?
Were you there when they terrorized the Twin Towers?
Oh - oh - oh - oh. Sometimes, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they terrorized the Twin Towers?

With the 20th anniversary coming up to the 9/11 tragedy, I couldn't help but recall where I was when that occurred - kind of like people a little older than me will still cite about when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

While driving to work recently, I was listening to a DJ talk about the upcoming 9/11 anniversary and how she clearly remembered where she was. So where was I on the fateful date?

Back on September 11, 2001, I prepared myself to enjoy a day off from work at the Baton Rouge General to attend a two day social work conference at the NASW-LA headquarters off of I-110.

I used to have a Honda 125 XLS dirt bike that I mainly used off and on for short trips, so I used that as I looked forward that morning to enjoying a rather laid-back day of getting re-certified with other colleagues as a board approved clinical supervisor. Little did I know what was in store for me.

The weather was forecast to have no rain in Baton Rouge that day, so I was very happy to be able to take my motorcycle for a cruise to the workshop. While it was still summer with expected hot weather at times, it was rather pleasant that morning a little later than usual as I got on to I-10 and enjoyed not having to be stressed out with rush hour traffic.

At the training site, it was great to reacquaint myself with some other social work professionals whom I hadn't been able to see in a long while. I was the only one to bring in a helmet, so that was surely a great topic of conversation for the others to ask me about my wheels and tease me a bit about being in the motorcycle gang.

The presenter for our workshop was a gifted communicator who knew how to make us all feel comfortable and find new ways to digest what can sometimes be boring and routine things about ethics and the like.

So after going through some "social-worky" ice breaker intros and other preliminary housekeeping, someone taking a brief leave from the session happened to get an alert from someone else in the building about the first Twin Tower being struck by a plane.

With the NASW-LA office being located where the training was being held, we were somehow able to get a television at some point during a break to hear more about what was happening.

At that point, the presenter knew it would be very difficult for us to stay focused on academic things in light of what we saw, that both Towers had collapsed from plane crashes, as well as the other reports of planes flying into the Pentagon and one crashing near the Capitol.

It was so surreal! We were all traumatized and reaching out to others for support with hugs and tears flowing from our eyes in those feelings of uncertainty and helplessness.

There we were, social workers who were used to mainly giving help to others dealing with all sorts of trauma and stress in their lives. The human condition knows no boundaries—we are all frail Earthen vessels.

So after we all were glued to the television for some time before lunch, we were given an extended time for eating and just taking care of ourselves. I had brought a lunch and decided to take a ride on my motorcycle around the LSU Lakes to unwind.

I found a shady spot near the Dalrymple Street beach area, where many people take their kids to feed the ducks, and just sat down on a rock by the lake in a little space by itself hidden away.

I had my little Bible with me, so I prayed the daily readings and offered up some special prayers for the victims of what we were all still uncertain and uneasy about.

As I do in the morning after my readings and prayers, I slowed down my breathing and tried to let go, let God. As tears began to flow again, I couldn't help but recall the famous Good Friday spiritual song, "Were You There."

After a rather long time for lunch, I returned to the training and got updates on the happenings in New York and Washington. We all were so disjointed that we barely could continue with the lectures, so we ended early.

Since there weren't cell phones as we know them now around at that time, I probably must have stopped to use a pay phone to call my wife to share in our concerns about the tragedy that had taken place.

I will never forget how strongly I hugged my wife when I got home that night. It was so special to see the children back from school and to just feel some sense of normalcy in light of what we were getting to know more and more that evening about the terrors that had taken place that morning.

For all the individuals, families, and friends of those affected directly by 9/11, I lift up a special prayer for you and yours. As was noted on many bumper stickers after the tragedy, "We Will Never Forget!" And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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