On September 11, 2001, I was in Orlando at a Gartner Symposium where I was part of panel on web hosting. While our panel was in session, the World Trade Center was attacked. Those of us at the conference spent the day in surreal state, watching the Towers pancake over and over again, shaking our heads not so much in disbelief as in hopes that the gesture could stop it from happening (or, at least, knock the image out of our minds). Everyone also spent the day trying to figure out how to get home because, even if you’re in a luxury resort – which we were – there was only one thought on your mind: GET ME HOME.
Fortunately, my colleague and I were able to get on an Amtrak train heading North – we only knew it was going as far as Richmond. We spent the night of the 11th trying to piece together what had happened through brief battery-conserving calls home and through what the conductors could tell us. Fortunately, we made it to Washington, with one minute to spare in catching the Acela to Boston. Not that it hadn’t been subdued up to that point, but when the train pulled out of Newark late afternoon on the 12th, the car I was in went dead silent as we got our first glimpse of Manhattan weirdly imbalanced without WTC, and with a lowering, black cloud hanging over the island.
The next morning I retrieved my car from Logan Airport – eerie: no planes, no traffic, and oddly no charge for parking. I wondered how many of the cars parked near mine had been driven there by people on the LA flights… At work, I learned that three of my company’s employees had been killed. I didn’t know them, or anyone else who died, but it brought the event closer to home. Folks I did know, working in the Genuity network operations center, had been talking to our colleagues in NY when their Tower collapsed. At least they died with hope: they had been told to go to the roof of the building for evacuation by helicopter. This hope of rescue – whatever comfort I’ve drawn from that terrible day comes from the thought of those three men from Genuity’s network hub, heading for the roof, knowing that they’d be safe soon.