Royal Alexander, a lawyer from Shreveport, was sitting in his hotel room, having a cup of coffee and preparing for the day ahead in Crystal City, Virginia, when a loud noise shook him to the core.
Alexander was in Crystal City with the late Clyde C. Holloway, former US Congressman and Commissioner for the Civil Service of Louisiana. They were there trying to get support from members of Congress to raise funds for Holloway’s campaign.
It was a three day campaign trip that lasted a week and put Alexander at the center of one of the most terrifying attacks on US soil.
“I just remember hearing that loud noise, I described it as a roar,” said Alexander. “I walk to the parking lot of this Crystal City hotel and look around the other side and see black smoke rising from the top of the Pentagon.”
The hotel where Alexander and Holloway stayed was only 100 yards from the Pentagon. That morning, Alexander stayed behind when Holloway drove to Washington, DC, and there he saw Flight 77 seconds after flying into the Pentagon.
Alexander ran to the hotel parking lot and was greeted by other guests who asked if it was a bomb. He said we would find out later that it was the fully fueled plane.
“People from the Pentagon flocked to the parking lot and came into Crystal City, which is where I was, and it really was a crazy exodus of people,” Alexander recalled. “I only remember the word surreal; it is being overused, but I have to say in this case the word surreal is appropriate because as the day goes on you begin to realize that this apparently happened in other parts of America. You watch TV later and see the Twin Towers hit and then fall, and then you think how close this happened to you. We’ve had 20 years to get used to it, but right now there’s just no way to process what’s going on. “
Alexander said he was exasperated and insecure, that not only was he 100 meters from the Pentagon, he also had no idea of what was going on around him. His brother Tom Alexander was working for U.S. Senator Jon Kyl at the time and was working in the Senate Hart Office Building.
At that time, further attacks were feared.
He can still hear the helicopters circling Washington, DC and remembers the fighter jets hanging in the sky to avert the danger.
“DC was like a ghost town. The streets, where taxis usually sounded their horns, were quiet, ”said Alexander. “I just remember thinking that I was grateful to be alive. I am heartbroken for those who have died. “
“I just remember flying home and just thinking, what’s going on in this world?” said Alexander.