U.S. Navy Lt. Michael Scott Lamana was not supposed to be at the Pentagon on Sept 11, 2001.
It was his day off.
“But they needed people to come into work that day because there were some people out. So, Scotty went in. That was Scotty,” said Lamana’s sister, 37-year-old Dani Lamana.
Just before hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 was deliberately crashed into the side of the Pentagon, killing 189 people, including “Scotty” Lamana, the Baton Rouge native was on the phone with his U.S. Navy buddy, Chuck Williams.
The two were talking about the planes that had smashed into the World Trade Center in New York less than 45 minutes before, Dani Lamana said.
“Scotty was telling Chuck, ‘You know what you have to do now’ — meaning if there was war, they would take care of each other’s families if something happened to one of them,” Dani Lamana said.
Williams is one of the many friends who the Lamanas, of Baton Rouge, now count as their larger, supportive family.
“Everything happens for a reason. There are so many people we now know, all people we consider family that have been there for us. But it’s not a silver lining for what happened,” Dani Lamana said.
What happened was 31-year-old Scotty Lamana, a briefer for the chief of naval operations, died at the Pentagon on Sept 11, 2001, one of five Louisiana residents killed that day in the terrorist attacks.
Leo Russell Keene III, of Sulphur, died in the South Tower of the World Trade Center; Louis Calvin Williams III, of Mandeville, died in the World Trade Center, and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Wayne Yokum, of Lake Charles, died at the Pentagon.
U.S. Air Force (Ret.) Lt. Col. Robert Hymel, of Norco, also died in the attack on the Pentagon. Hymel, an analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency, was 55.
Hymel’s twin sister, Mary H. Toce, of Lafayette, said last month she didn’t like what she saw last year while she drove around Lafayette on that Sept. 11 anniversary.
“I saw too few flags,” she said, her voice wavering and then growing stronger, “and it hurt because people have forgotten.”
For her, the absence of that outward sign of patriotism signals that the sacrifices of that day and the lessons it held have been forgotten.
Dani Lamana, her parents Mike and Wanda Lamana, and sister Andi Chatelain all said last month that if people don’t have a loved one or close friend overseas fighting for the country, they tend to forget about the sacrifice.
“When you look at war and you realize what people have given up to protect us all, you realize that we would not have our freedom without them,” Dani Lamana said.
Scotty Lamana, his family said, died doing what he loved to do.
“I have to believe it was his time to die. I just have to,” Wanda Lamana said of her only son.
Mike Lamana, Scotty’s father, said his son lived more of his life in his 31 years than most people live their whole lives.
Scotty Lamana grew up in the University Hills area, off Highland Road near LSU.
Lamana, who loved working on old cars, graduated from Catholic High School in 1988 and earned a degree in political science from LSU in 1992.
Before he graduated from LSU, Lamana worked as a volunteer firefighter with the St. George Fire Department, as a reserve deputy with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, and as a law clerk.
The day he graduated from college, Lamana was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy. Before being assigned to the Pentagon, Lamana served as a naval flight officer and training coordinator in Hawaii.
Lamana met his wife, Lorna Duco, at LSU and they were married in 1995. The couple did not have children.
Today, Duco is remarried and lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
Dani Lamana said her brother would have made a good politician. “He was charming, and he could talk his way into and out of anything,” she said.
Dani Lamana said her brother, who had been working on his master’s degree in business at the University of Maryland at the time of his death, had told her he was going to leave the Navy in December 2001 because he had a job waiting for him at IBM.
The family said he would have decided to continue in military service after the terrorist attacks.
Toce and Hymel grew up in Norco along with an older brother, Clyde. The twins attended the University of Southwestern Louisiana — now University of Louisiana at Lafayette. After college, Hymel joined the Air Force while Toce started her family in Lafayette.
Hymel graduated from college with a bachelor of science degree in 1969 and earned a master of business administration from Western New England College while serving active duty with the Air Force.
He and his wife, Pat, married in 1971. She has remarried and she and their daughter, Natalie, remain in the D.C. area, Toce said.
During his service in the Vietnam War, Hymel survived the crash of his B-52 bomber.
“He was severely injured at that time,” Toce said. “He and the tail gunner were the only two survivors.”
At the time, he had yet to meet his newborn daughter, Natalie.
“I think that’s what kept him alive. He wanted to see her,” Toce said.
During his 24-year military career, Hymel received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal and was also a veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
Hymel retired from the Air Force in September 1993 and by March 1994 was working as a civilian with the Defense Intelligence Agency.
This weekend, Toce will join Hymel’s family in Washington, D.C., for a memorial for the 9/11 victims.
Her brother is buried in Arlington Cemetery.
Last year, a memorial for Hymel and the other 9/11 victims was dedicated on the ULL campus. The memorial’s centerpiece is a large slab of limestone from the Pentagon. Concrete benches surround the monument. In the background, a fountain in the Alumni Center garden provides a distraction from the noonday traffic along St. Mary Boulevard.
The spot has become one of solace for Toce.
“It’s wonderful that they have this,” she said. “Since I can’t go visit him in D.C., I can come here and sit and talk to him and feel like his presence is here.”
Scotty Lamana is also buried at Arlington National Ceremony. His funeral was held Oct. 9, 2001.
Although his survivors have been to Washington, D.C., before to attend 9/11 memorial services, this year they will remain in Baton Rouge to attend the Freedom Walk and Patriot Day Ceremony at the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial on Sunday.
The Baton Rouge event was organized in large part by Dani Lamana in honor of her brother and the others who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
Both Lamana sisters as well as Toce said they missed out on getting to know their brothers as adults.
“I was looking forward to the years as we got older to get to know him a little better,” Toce said. “He was just a fun person.”
In the past 10 years, Toce has seen her family grow, with six more grandchildren. She grieves for the loss of her brother, but for all that he has lost, too.
“He never knew the joys of becoming a grandfather to his two grandchildren,” she said.
Now, on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, she asks others to show an outward sign that the lives lost that day have not been forgotten — a sign as simple as displaying an American flag.
“Freedom isn’t free,” she said. “You do have to work at it. We have to stick together as a nation so that the world will become a better place.”
Toce said that before the attacks she was naïve about anti-American sentiments.
“It was an eye-opener to know how badly they wanted to harm us,” she said. “I hope we’ve learned to be a more united nation and to appreciate our freedoms.”
The Lamanas said they also want people to remember the sacrifices the military make every day for freedom.
Dani Lamana, who works as a home health occupational therapist, said one of her patients said something before she died that put her brother’s death in perspective.
“Before she passed away, she told someone that ‘we lost her brother on Sept. 11.’ Usually people say ‘she lost her brother’ or ‘Dani and her family lost Scotty.’ But she said ‘we’ lost him. It took 10 years for somebody to finally say that,” Dani Lamana said, crying.