The plane was full, and we made our way to the last two seats. Weary and tired, we sat down without a word to each other. It was hot on the plane, and the odor of hundreds of unshowered was all too prevalent. There was a hum of conversation was tinted with trepidation and fear.
“Where the hell are we going? Will they serve us any food? When will we come back to New Orleans? Have you ever been on a plane before? What if it crashes? How soon can I take a shower? Do you think I will be able to get some clean clothes? Are we going far? What day is it anyway? Do you think we will be able to stay together?”
It was dark by the time we got on that plane, although I had no idea what time it was. We left the apartment in the Treme just after daybreak, and we boarded a plane sometime after dark. Liam and I sat silently slumped in our seats, sinking farther into the oblivion. The air on the plane felt panicked and fearful, but thank god for the insulation of the pills. I had learned to stop asking questions.
As the plane began to taxi down the runway, I realized from the conversation around that many of these people had never been on an airplane. Many of the people around me had never even left the city. Many of these people had no knowledge of the world beyond New Orleans. Fear was mounting, as the airplane picked up speed on the runway. An audible gasp echoed throughout the cabin as the plane first lifted into the air, that moment when your stomach drops just a little as the wheels lift off the runway. It was virtually silent, and then the hum of voices began to rise once more.
After the plane steadied in the air, the mood around seemed to relax just a little. The pilot’s voice came over the speaker. “Thanks for flying with us today, folks. We are going to get you to a place that is safe and dry. We are going to Middleton, Rhode Island…”
“Road where?” I heard someone ask and it became obvious to me that this person had never heard of a state named Rhode Island. I think the general consensus on the plane was that we were going to a road somewhere in Louisiana. The pilot continued his spiel.
“We will fly over New York in about an hour and a half, and then we will be landing about 50 miles north of there,” the pilot said.
Chaos and mayhem followed. Panic spread like wildfire too quickly to contain. Women wailed from fear and frustration. Sadness and horror were evident in the voices that cried out around me. People stood up, shouting and flailing their arms in the air. Eyes darted back and forth, looking for an escape route but fell on nothing but the walls around. Black faces grew pale as the color drained out when those words sunk into their hearts and minds. I was, of course, opiate insulated to the mayhem around.
Much of the rest of that flight was riddled with both panic and confusion. The chaotic din died down much more slowly than it started, and by the time the pilot pointed out New York City on one side of the plane most of the people were quiet.
We landed in Middleton, Rhode Island around midnight. Before we landed the pilot mention the time and date. It was September 11. This was the first time in thirteen days that I was aware of the date and time. The sun and the moon and a plethora of substance with blatant abuse had ruled me. It was almost midnight, September 11, and I made it out of the devastation that the world watched on CNN for days.