Where Were You On September 11, 2001?

September 11, 2011

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I was in a meeting when the planes hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  I know that the meeting was related to the project that re-wrote the system I support – turning a fat client application into a thin client one.  Any details of the exact content of the meeting have long since faded.

At the time, I worked in a building that houses five thousand IT professionals.  The building has a constant buzz of background conversation as people work together to solve problems.  On a typical day, you’ll see most people at their desks, with 2-3 people at some desks.  As we walked back from the meeting on September 11, 2001, where was none of this.  We became aware of the fact that larger groups of people were huddled around monitors.  At first, this seemed a bit unusual, but not overly so.  After all, in such a large building, there will be a handful of slightly odd occurrences at any point in time.

We quickly noticed that this was not an aberration – there were lots of groups of people huddled around monitors.  Curiosity got the better of one member of our team, and he joined one of the groups.  A minute later, Jeff caught up to us and shared the news – terrorists had attacked by crashing planes into the World Trade Center.

Most of the rest of the day was spent following the news as it unfolded.  Management didn’t make much of an effort to deter people.  Work wasn’t getting done, but there was the overriding feeling that this was an important day in the history of the country.  Impromptu prayer services were organized.

Later that day, I was in my car and noticed a single air plane flying across the sky.  Since US air space had been closed earlier in the day, the jet was clearly Air Force 1.  It felt very odd being able to look into the sky and know exactly where the president was.  Then the plane passed, and the sky was entirely devoid of air traffic.  Surreal.

Gas prices had risen dramatically during the day.  I had filled up a few days ago, so I wasn’t forced to buy at the panic prices of September 11.  I resisted the urge to top off my tank – would an extra two gallons of gas do anything for me?

I’ve never been the type of person who watches very much news.  However, that night, I was glued to CNN.  For the next several days, I followed the developments – praying for the victims, and hoping that more would be pulled out alive.  Hoping, too, that there would not be a backlash against American Muslims who had nothing to do with the attacks.

The Iowa State – Iowa football game was scheduled for the following weekend, and  I had a ticket to the game.  Like all other games that weekend, it was postponed.  I decided not to let the terrorists win, and I went forward with the weekend as planned – sans football game.  I drove the 330 miles to Ames, Iowa and had a good time hanging out with friends (including The Crunchy Conservative).

It’s certainly not as dramatic as Zarberg’s personal memories of 9/11 (great article with several photos), but that’s my story of September 11, 2001.

Where were YOU on September 11?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Martin Kelly
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 08:36:33

    I was also in a meeting, actually discussing comercial aircraft systems.When we heard that a plane had hit one of the towers, we assumed it was a small plane and there must have been bad weather. Someone stuck there head in the door to tell the manager leading the meeting that a second plane had hit and that both were large comercial airliners. Without direction, we all got up and headed to the Atrium. In our building there is a large open area to welcome guests that had a television. We gathered on the third floor railing and looked down to see the first tower fall.

    I made a profetic statement to a co-worker that this would be bad for our commercial business, but good for our military business. It was after saying this out loud that I realized that our CEO was standing next to me. He walked away without a word, but by the time we had returned to our desks, he had sent an email to all employees (obviously not reviewed by his assistants) telling us that we needed to be ready to respond in any way we were asked to.

    I quickly called my wife since her sister was living in Manhattan. She was picking up our kids from school even though she had just dropped them off, and trying to contact her sister every 10 minutes. She did not get contact until 10:00 that night. I still feel a sinking in my stomache each time I see the videos of that day.


  2. kosmo
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 12:03:34

    I didn’t have kids at the time (hadn’t met my wife yet, actually), so my experience was a bit different from that perspective. I really had no fear of people I knew being affected (I have no close relatives on the east coast). So there was nobody for me to call – just a TV to sit in front of.

    Wow. That’s a very long time to be unable tor reach your sister-in-law.

    One thing that always amazed me when there is a big news story is the ability of the average person to grasp relatively complex concepts. Nearly everyone became an expert of the structure of skyscrapers within a few days of the attacks, and could explain exactly how they collapse. Remove the motivation of a breaking news story, and you could spend hours trying to explain the exact same concepts. I’ve observed this quite a number of times over the years, with different events (mine disasters, Challenger, the 2000 election issues, etc).


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