Well, it’s one year later. How could you miss it, actually. The media, as usual, has over done an obvious point… All of the channels around here are pulling a full 24 hours of remembrance and memorials and services. What I can’t tell is whether or not it’s because I live so close to New York or not. I mean I haven’t heard much more than a blurb or two on the PA crash and I think the government wants to let us forget that the Pentagon was ever damaged. What I hear most of is NYC – obviously the hardest hit, but it’s also about 80 or 90 miles away from where I work, so I do wonder if our closeness to the city is what’s making it so “in our faces”; we could see the smoke and dust clouds rising from one of our neighboring buildings… So what was Sept 11, 2001 for a programmer working so near, yet so far, from NYC?
Around 8:50, I get an IM from Steve, wanting to know what was going on, cuz he heard that a plane flew into the WTC, but he couldn’t get onto the news web sites – scary that we’re both at work at this point, as it’s before nine for me and before six for him – so I started talking to him about it… I was thinking a Cessna got all munged up and oops’d itself into a building. Within a few minutes, as the ‘net started to scream from the strain and web servers started to run at full power, I started getting IM’s from other friends and family… you know the story already. That it was a commercial jet but that there wasn’t much information on it, so I’m still thinking it was a pilot snafu or something… a little while later, the 2nd plane hit the other tower – this changed everything in my mind, as there’s no way two accidents like this could happen like that. So what was it? An attack? I guess it entered my mind, as such, but who would we stupid enough to try this? Had to be something else, that would have been completely unbelievable, but still something else…Then the Pentagon got hit.
America was under attack. What’s going on? At this point, I’ve got IM’s and chat rooms open on at least three continents (never know what the BBC or Asian news will find out before we will) and from ten states from across the nation – we’re all sharing information b/c everything was happening so fast. Was there other cities under attack? What was hit? Are there more planes in the air? Another plane goes down in PA. This is when I personally decided to pack it all in and run. They started giving reports that all air traffic was being grounded, but they still has planes unaccounted for. President Bush was already en route and being whisked away to places unknown. And the US just about completely stopped and held it’s breath.
As chance would have it, half of my company was at a Trade Show in CA – where they would be stranded for at least two weeks – along with a large chunk of our management. Working in Stamford, our building is located near the UBS Warburg building, where they have an active trading floor… now as WTC is all about finance, and the attacks were all around the Northeast… who knows what else was on the target list. So… I closed our office. This was about 9:55ish, if I remember, just before the buildings started to collapse. I just went around and told everyone to leave when they wanted – I was getting my white ass the hell outta there. A group of ppl were watching TV up in the conference room, trying to get news; the most of us were just lurking about the office, mostly in shock. One of the programmers there at the time had worked at Cantor Fitzgerald until 1994 – he’d worked there for about 15 years or so… when he heard what had happened, and on what floor, he just shook his head – he knew that if people were at work, they were gone already… Then the towers fell.
I left shortly after the second one came down… I got outside and got over to the train station… and I stopped short. I thought I was seeing a scene from the Left Behind series. I mean, there were cabbies all over being throw money to get people home. The train platforms were packed and you could sense the panic, yet everyone appeared calm… trains would wander in, all of them local, and mostly 1/2 full already, with people fleeing NYC – Manhattan had already closed the bridges and ferries. It was a scene out of a movie – you know the one. The movie where the world is about to end and people are scrambling to get home. Me, I’m a more practical mammal. If they were grounding air traffic, it was only a matter of time before the Government freaked and stopped all other public transportation (and rightfully so!) so I figured I had a limited amount of time to get on a train, or else I would be in Stamford for a bit. Calling my sister, I confirmed that – they were stopping service in most major cities, little by little, and that she didn’t even know if she could get to me in any amount of time. I was lucky enough to get on the next train that was proclaiming itself the “last” for a while.
The train ride is what had the most impact. I’ve been taking it for half a decade… there’s an unwritten code that most people follow: mostly leaving ppl alone – there’s always a random loud phone caller, or chatty know-it-all guy, or even the gaggle of people that yell to each other all morning, but for the most part, you can count on being left alone. This was different. First, we were all packed in there, asshole to bellybutton. I don’t think some of the more petite women even touched the floor and just kinda hovered in midair among the other ppl. There were all walks of life. White collar types, rappers, construction workers, security guards… and they were all talking to each other. One business woman was in the South Tower when the North Tower got hit. She went down the stairs and started walking to midtown when the South Tower came down – she got out OK, but hadn’t heard from her mother yet who worked in the other tower… she got off in Darien. There was a commercial co-pilot (three stripes on his arm) across the aisle that was telling us about how the F18’s scrambled after the second tower got hit because there were problems on radar and a whole set of planes were unaccounted for. He was in LGA at the time of the attack, and now was stuck in CT until he was recalled for duty. There was a whole group of us trading information because we didn’t know what else was going to happen… at one point, we had even heard that a plane was shot down by the USAF as it was en route to Chicago. Never before (and probably never again) had I ever expected to see such an eclectic group of people in one space treating each other as equals. There was no colour. No race. Not even any religion conflicts… we were Americans. Either because we were citizens or just because we happened to be here at the time, we were Americans.
The rest of the day was a blur… calling friends to see who got out and who didn’t… watching the recovery efforts begin and the plot of it all be unraveled… what we all did as a nation at that point. By the middle of the day, we were all in it together, for better or worse. And now it’s a year later… I’m wearing a USA hockey jersey as a sign of support for my nation and for the people we lost. I feel it’s the least I can do… to show support of our nation.
And another day goes on…