Sunday, September 10, 2006

I remember 9/11

I had spent a small portion of that Monday (9/10) being coached by the manager that I needed to spend less time in meetings and catch up on some work I needed to do so I cleared my calendar for that Tuesday morning. I was a supervisor of about 8 people in IT in a office tower in Philly.

I remember the weather that morning was one of those near perfect September days. It had rained the day before and a big dome of that legendary Canadian Air poured in from the North to the entire Eastern Seaboard of the US. The sky was cloudless and blue and the temperature was to be in the 80s.

My wife paged me on my two way text pager with the news that an aircraft of some kind had crashed into one of the two "twin towers" in NYC. It went something like "MIKE A A&RPLAN$ H!T THE TOWERS IN NY%" because the stupid pager was notorious for dropping characters and mangling sentences. (I once got a message to PICK UP HUGGIES when our kids were 8 and 10 - I was very worried until I realized she had meant HOAGIES).

The first thing I did was to hit the Internet for news so I typed into my browser and I knew this was going to be a huge news story by how long it took the farm of servers that MSNBC must have to render the page. When I finally got a page all it had was a picture of the smoking tower and a half baked story about an accident involving a small plane and the north tower.

I remember that the office just went a little nuts then with people yacking it up and looking for information. The other tower was hit. One guy that worked for me at the time who was a well-known maven rushed in my office and told me the news. I told him to "get back to work - there is nothing we can do here". Another guy that had just started working for us ran off with a look of fear and sadness that I just can't explain. Later we found out that his former employer had merged with Empire State Health and had offices in the North tower. He knew missing people.

One resourceful guy found a TV in a conference room and wheeled to his office and attempted to get a signal. The TV was meant for DVDs and videos and didn't have an antenna so we watched the snowy picture of the smoking office towers.

I went back to work.

My maven rushed in to tell me that the south tower, the second one hit, had fallen.

I remember thinking that "this never occurred to me" that the towers might fall. I figured if they survived the initial impact that they would just burn themselves out and leave scarred office towers behind.

I rushed over to the crowded snowy picture and watched in disbelief. A short time later the second one fell.

About this time I started thinking about disaster recovery and started printing out everything I could find and syncing my laptop with the latest documents we had on DR. I had reams of paper printed and I heard that the Pentagon had been hit as well.

About this time all kinds of crazy rumors were flying about: Pittsburgh had been hit, there were more out there, Camp David had been hit, etc etc.

The Camp David one struck me as "suspicious". How do you even find Camp David, let alone run a 757 into it at 600 MPH? It sounded to me like there was one weak team in the organization and they were told "you go long, out by the Buick". Camp David?

About 11 we were told that the office was closing and we were to get our people out so I went about finding everyone one by one and telling them to go. I couldn't find "J" our college recruit so I search the building looking for him until my Maven told me he left after the first plane crash.

I headed off with my boss since she and I took the same PATCO train from Jersey everyday.

I recall how efficient PATCO was. They had every one of their trains stacked up at 16th and locust and were filling them and sending them off as fast as they could. They had stopped even taking tickets and opened the turnstiles for anyone that wanted out of the city. All of the people in the city and on the train were humbled by the experience and were solemn. They were polite to one another. It was different.

I got home by lunch and turned on the TV and was glued there for the next 24-36 hours.

The kids came home a little after I did and seemed unfased by the whole thing. All they knew was that was the second day of school and now they were off. Oldest Son was 11 and Younger was 8.

That night there was a prayer service at Fellowship Alliance Chapel and it was there that I heard the name Todd Beamer for the first time. He was a member of the Princeton Alliance chapel and was known to have been on flight 93. He left behind kids and a pregnant wife.

The next few days were strange. The skies were quiet and the people remained solemn. God bless America signs were everywhere. People were nice in traffic.

This lasted about two weeks before everyone went back to being themselves.

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