HOUSTON - For years, Glenn Alexander said he didn’t want to sleep. These days he doesn’t want to wake up.
His wife of 16 years, Lorena Cruz-Alexander, was among the 15 people killed in the March 23, 2005, explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery,
“For a while there, for the first two or three years, I was having no dreams of anything other than the tragedy,” he said during an interview in his attorney Robert Kwok’s law offices. “I didn’t want to sleep. I was just too confused to go to sleep.
“I’d wake up crying. I’d wake up in bed in a big old puddle of tears.”
The nightmares were so bad that Alexander would leave his house and check into a hotel. Ten years since he survived the blast that killed his wife, “I’m actually back to dreaming normal dreams,” he said.
Still, the depression and sorrow remain.
“Now, I don’t want to wake up,” he said.
Alexander, an electrician, was working on a catwalk on the refinery’s ultracracker unit that afternoon as his wife worked in a trailer nearby. When a part of the nearby isomerization unit was flooded by flammable liquid that spewed all over, a volatile vapor cloud formed.
“The first I knew anything was wrong was when I saw all the people running away,” Alexander said. “I yelled at my guys to get away and run too.”
One of the fleeing workers tried to get away in his truck. It was that truck that investigators said ignited the vapor cloud.
So focused was Alexander on warning members of his work crew to get away that he didn’t have time to come down off the catwalk as a fireball roared his way. He and another worker took cover behind some equipment as Alexander watched in horror as the ball of fire engulfed the trailer where his wife was working.
“I couldn’t do anything but watch the trailer blow up,” Alexander said. “After it was over, all you could see was insulation and papers floating in the air.
“I swear I saw bodies flying out from that trailer too.”
Those images were replayed night after night in his nightmares.
The Alexanders, like others, had just returned to work from a celebratory lunch to salute the workers for a strong safety performance record during the turnaround of the ultracracker.
Little did they know that just a few dozen yards away, workers were restarting the isomerization unit, a process unit that boosts the octane levels in gasoline.
The decade since the fatal blasts, Alexander - like all of those whose loved ones were killed in the explosion - received multi-million dollar settlements from BP to cover their “pain and suffering.”
No amount of money, Alexander said, has helped him recover. Or ever will.
Since his wife’s death, Alexander has moved eight times, each time farther from the oil refineries where he used to make a living. Last week he was moving again.
“I can’t seem to get settled,” he said. “I’m restless. Don’t want to stay any one place long. Eventually, I’ll probably move out of Texas altogether.”
Among the items in the boxes of possessions he moves each time is Lori’s watch, which is stopped at 1:17 p.m. In his wallet is a small photo of Lori that is with him always.
As March 23 approaches each year, he visits his wife’s grave in La Porte. Each visit, Alexander lines star jasmine flowers around a bench that sits at his wife’s grave.
“She loved jasmine, the smell of jasmine,” he said. “That’s why when I come or when her mom comes by we can smell the jasmine in the springtime.”