Growing up in Killeen, I dreamed of the bigger cities I’d live in someday, of careers and a more hustled atmosphere than what Texas provided. But as I grow older, I find it easier to return to this place I left nearly 25 years ago.
After graduating from Ellison High School, I attended college and then lived and worked in Washington, D.C., New York City and Las Vegas. The hustle and bustle of the big cities got the blood of this Texas boy bubbling with excitement. A totally new world and amazing adventures awaited me.
One memory in particular stands out. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was in Washington in a meeting across from the Potomac River, facing the Pentagon. We were notified of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. A TV was set up for us to watch the news when the second plane hit.
People ask, “Where you were when ...?”
On that day, I can say I was looking out the window of the conference room when a silvery glint in the sky caught my eye. I looked once and then twice, and within a blink of an eye I saw smoke erupt from the Pentagon. The windows vibrated from the impact explosion.
For a boy who grew up in the peaceful times of Texas, witnessing an actual terrorist attack was a shock to my system. The train ride home took us from underground to outside, with Washington National Airport to our left and the smoldering Pentagon to our right. Standing, I could see the smoke still rising. People cried on the train, their confused looks mirroring my own. We had no idea what was going on, or what would come next.
I hoped for adventure when I decided to leave Texas. Up to that point, it had been a slow adventure. But on 9/11, my life, as many others, changed.
I never expected to return to live in Central Texas. I thought I would either remain on the East Coast or make a methodical move to the west. I was beginning to get used to wearing sweaters and boots in the cold and snow of New York City.
Now here I am, back home. It’s amazing to see how Central Texas has changed. Trees I remember lining city streets have been replaced with businesses, apartments and homes. It’s not the same city I remember.
But I’m not the same either.
As I sit here reminiscing about the past, I’m also dreaming of the future, imagining what tomorrow will look like and me along with it. I’m also reminded that life’s unpredictable nature makes for a more valuable, certain life.
It’s true, there’s no place like home on the holidays.