Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remember

http://spitfiremurphy.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/9-11-2.jpg 


11 Sept 2001

On Lake Ave, going east, had just passed River Rd when Mary Dixon came on in advance of the scheduled 8AM news break to announce that authorities believed a small passenger plane, possibly a Cessna, had crashed into one of the towers of the WTC. She and Lin Brehmer discussed some of the confusion that was going across the AP lines and scattered reports of what might be going on, because it was a clear day, so weather wouldn't have been a factor.

I called Dave, who was at my place on a day off, planning to go to the Cubs game that afternoon. I told him, "They'd better get people out of the Sears Tower and the Hancock, they're sitting targets". Upon arriving to work, I learned that they had, indeed, evacuated many of the targets in the city, as well as buildings in San Fran and other major cities in the US. Not long after I got to the office, the second plane hit.

The internet was not what it is today, nor was our network. Regardless, even with all the bandwidth in the world, there was nothing that could keep the internet from slowing down with all the traffic it handled that day. Reports came in through the internet, and before we knew it, one of the towers fell.

All the while, people were being called into offices. People were unable to delete e-mails, enter certain doors with their card keys, and couldn't access certain shared drives. It was obvious very quickly that people were losing their jobs that day. One by one, individuals were called into offices, often entering in shock, and certainly leaving in the same condition, sometimes worse. I cannot explain why I didn't go home that day. We weren't exactly told we had to stay, but nobody ever hinted that it would be OK to go home. We couldn't. We didn't know if we would be next. We didn't know what was going to happen.

In the meantime, a friend's wife was being induced that morning. I spoke to him mid-morning. They'd given her pitocin just 30 minutes before the first plane hit. It was all that was on TV. They finally demanded the TV be turned off, and tried to focus on the new life that they were trying to bring into the world.

Our building, about 20 miles north of the city limits, was two towers, 12 stories each, and my desk had a direct, clear view of O'Hare. Sales people started to call me to tell me they had customer orders at the airport, and could they just go drive out there to get it? What could the customer do to get their hands on their material, it was urgent? The FAA closed all US air space. O'Hare was silent. The sky was empty. My view would never be the same, both physically and figuratively.

TV's were wheeled into conference rooms. Executives wore the stress of the day on their faces as they had difficult tasks to carry out, all the while trying to find out what was going on outside their offices, and outside in the world. Some people cried. Some stared. Most asked, "Why?".

The layoffs continued, the horror continued to unfold, and nobody knew exactly what to do. I talked to Dave a couple of times, he was truly in shock. There would be no Cubs game. He couldn't remove his eyes from the TV. Reality began to set in.

Not seeing planes in the sky was difficult to grasp. The whole thing was hard to figure, but, an empty sky around one of the busiest airports in the world is just surreal. To hear nothing, to see nothing, to know the planes have been replaced by the odd smell of danger and the unknown, eerie.

That day became mostly a blur as I went from the conference room to my desk, to handling ignorance on the phone, to walking friends to their cars with boxes of their belongings. Would the horror in New York happen in Chicago? Were we in some sort of direct danger? What the hell was happening?

Family and friends reached out, confirming that all were OK, and loved. I tried to explain to people what it meant that the FAA had grounded all air traffic, regardless of whose customer had cargo on a flight, or how badly someone wanted to get home. There was nothing moving, a concept very foreign to those who put themselves before the tragedy that was happening on the east coast. That day, I solidified my hatred for that customer, they would never redeem themselves. No, you can't send a truck to O'Hare, you can't get anywhere near it, and no, I don't give a shit who you are or how badly you want that crap, you're not getting it.

Just after lunch, the good news came. It was a baby girl. Her name was Natalie. She was a ray of sun during an otherwise dark day.

At some point, we ended up at a local bar for what was supposed to be happy hour. The drinks were cold, the TV's all had the same pictures on them, we all had the same look of confusion mixed with sadness mixed with horror on our faces. Not even the beer could dull the feeling of that afternoon, nor could it ease the sourness in my stomach. Close friends, we gathered together to watch, hoping that by now there would be an answer, that we would see miraculous rescues of masses of people, or that perhaps it all hadn't actually happened. No such luck.

I arrived home to Dave, who was nearly zombie-like, glued to the TV, disgusted and angry, confused and in shock, sad. He had watched it all unfold all day, I had only gotten bits and pieces through the slow internet, fuzzy reception on the TV, and stories people tried to share, true or not. When Dave had had enough, I was just quenching my thirst for answers. He couldn't watch any longer, I couldn't take my eyes off the TV.

Again, for some reason, we returned to work the next day. When you work in transportation and there is no air traffic, ports are secured, and security is scrambling to get a hold on what's going here and there, it makes for a challenging, albeit slow moving, day. Again, questions. "When will they open the airport?", "When can I send my truck to get my stuff?". "WHAT DON'T YOU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND????" My blood still boils when I think about the ignorance.

I did not celebrate my birthday on 12 September, 2001. I couldn't. I couldn't think of much else but the tragedy out east, to be honest, I didn't deserve the attention when so many had lost their lives the previous day. Right now, I can't think of what I did that evening, but assume Dave and I went to my mom's and tried to enjoy dinner and a piece of cake.

It's impossible not to remember, regardless of where you were or what you were doing that day. The important thing, though, is to remember.