Will there come a day when 9/11 doesn't hit like a ton of bricks? When we watch those planes plow into the Towers and no longer find it unfathomable? When we see those Towers, one after the other, pancake and collapse, and not shake our heads in disbelief?
Maybe because it's NYC. Maybe because the planes were from Boston. Maybe because there were more people killed, when I think 9/11, I think of New York, and not Washington. I think of all those workers doing what you do at work.
Just another day at the office. Same old, same old.
Doing what you do.
Leaving a swallow-full of coffee in the bottom of the pot so you wouldn't have to put on another one. Chatting with the colleague who'd taken a long weekend. Heading in for an interminable staff meeting, hoping you wouldn't drift off or get caught rolling your eyes. Cursing your boss under your breath for some nonsense fire-drill demand. Putting the finishing touches on a preso that no one was actually interested in. Getting out a proposal the was doomed (they'd already picked your competitor). Firing off a CYA e-mail. Asking the woman in the next cube where she'd gotten that cute pocketbook (and hoping she'd tell you what she paid for it). Closing a deal. Making a trade. Figuring out where to have lunch - it's such a nice day, no way you're not going out.
Who'd have thought that a few minutes later you'd be heading for the roof, hoping to get airlifted to safety. Making your way down a billion flights of stairs, passing all those handsome boyo firefighters on their way up, cheering them on - and remembering, irrationally of course, that you'd forgotten to turn off your PC. Holding hands with your best office pal as you decide it's better to die with the weird hope that you'll bounce than it is to get incinerated in a firestorm.
I was in Orlando, participating in a panel on web hosting at a Gartner Group event. I wasn't an invited speaker - Genuity had paid for the privilege of having me sit there talking about bandwidth, failover, security, web servers, app servers, SAS70 certification, world class data centers, and - by the way - we did invent the Internet. (Or at least BB&N, our predecessor had. Plus we had bragging rights for the @ sign, and the first VPN. Talk about 'who cares?')
Surprisingly, nobody interrupted us to say what had happened, but by the time the panel ended, the hotel had brought a couple of TV's into the common area outside the function rooms, and people were standing around - not quite comprehending, but not yet numb.
It took me a while to process what was happening.
After the first Tower collapsed, I kept thinking that when the dust cleared, most of the building would still be standing.
I called home - of course.
Then tried to figure out how to get there. (Once I learned that the planes had come from Boston, I figured that Logan would be closed for a while.)
Thanks to John, my transpo brother-in-law, I was able to get on an Amtrak train heading our way - final destination unclear; the only promise was that we'd get as far as Richmond.
My colleague, Tom, and I caught a train around 8 p.m.
Husbanding our cellphone bars - neither of us had a charger, even if there'd been a place to use it - we made our way north, grabbing bits of info from our brief calls home, and scrounging for whatever rumors the conductors passed along.
I ate chicken soup that was salty, greasy, and delicious, and watched the south go by. In Virginia, we slowed to a crawl as we made our way over a bridge that struck me as rickety enough to be Civil War vintage. Why were we moving so slowly?
Were we at war? At war-war?
Tom and I had the Acela to catch in DC.
We made it with 2 minutes to spare, only because they waved us through without making us change our tickets.
Carol Burnett was in our car, but there was no star gazing, no autographs, no celebrity chit-chat.
Most of the wakes I've been to have been far livelier.
As we pulled out of Newark, the car went dead silent.
A big black cloud was extending from the WTC up half the length of Manhattan.
I thought at first that it was smoke. But of course it was a hideous amalgam of pulverized concrete, plastic, silicon, steel, paper, the remains of a handful of nihilist bastards, and most of what was left of a couple of thousand of workers who were just having another day at the office.