In September 2001 I had been placed as Project Lead on the largest engineering project of my career at that point. It was a 2 year, $1.7 million
project and with the typical red tape that occurs in life (no matter what industry you work in), management decisions had already placed me 2 months
in the weeds. My project involved conducting extensive testing, creating algorithms from the empirical data, and then incorporating those findings
into a job design software tool. My project team was large, cross-center, cross-discipline and I knew looked to be hard to manage.
I came up with the idea I needed to have a meeting in which I brought all of my project team together, along with sales people who would be selling
the product, as well as end-users and for two days hash out exactly what was needed to get the algorithms, and what the end user needed in the final
software package (both inputs and outputs). So I rented a conference room in a nearby hotel and had people from around the world in my company's
organization flown in for this 2-day meeting.
The first day of the meeting was September 10th, 2001. It was very productive and we all went away basically broke into subteams with deliverables
for the next day. The meetings started at 8:00 a.m. each day and I remember I got there about 7:30. Since the people who were from out of town were
staying in the same hotel as the meeting was taking place, most everybody was there by about 7:45 (especially considering we had pastries for them to
munch on). There was one individual who came in last to the meeting right about 8:00 a.m. CT (9:00 ET).
When he walked in we were still informally chatting a bit, and hadn't really got down to work, so he came in, sat down and started telling one of the
people on his team that he had just heard on the radio that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. I remember us spending maybe 2 or 3
minutes talking about that. I remember I asked "was it a general aviation plane or a commercial plane?" And he responded that they had talked like
it was a small general aviation plane. That was all he knew, and we quickly moved on to work.
We did not take our first break that morning until between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. CT (almost 11:00 ET). We broke and walked out into the lobby area of
the hotel where people were gathered around watching a large-screen TV. What we walked out into was a world where:
Both WTC towers had collapsed,
The Pentagon had "been attacked",
a crater smoldered in a pasture,
and CNN was going on about up to "four more planes are missing",
and all air traffic was being diverted to Canada and such.
We walked out into a world that was not the world we had taken recess from.
There are two memorable things I remember (since I had not been able to watch any events real-time) after learning of the situation (as it was being
reported at that time):
1. A good percent of the people attending the meeting reconvened briefly in the quietness of the conference room and we prayed and cried together.
2. Springer's daughters had moved to the east coast just weeks before the attacks and I remember calling Springer on the pay phone in the hotel
lobby to see if he knew if they were okay. There was a gentleman from my company on the pay phone next to me. I can only describe this dear man has
one of the most even-keeled, logical and methodical individuals I have ever met or had the pleasure of working with. In my mind, he is one of the
rare true geniuses I have met in my life. As I stood there on the phone with Springer, this man, slow-to react, virtually impossible to excite to any
type of less than well-thought-out reaction, was, in his typical calm, monotonic voice telling his wife, "Just pack a few things in some suitcases
and as soon as school gets out, we and the kids are just going to get out of the city for a few days until it looks like everything is okay." That
hit me so hard.
A third thing that was so surreal was later in the afternoon, I remember stepping out of the east door of the hotel into the parking lot to smoke a
cigarrette. This had me relatively close to and facing one of the small airports in the Dallas area. I never will forget how eerily unbelievable it
was that there was not ONE SINGLE AIRCRAFT in the Dallas skies. Not a helicopter, not a small plane, not a commercial flight. It would remain that
way for days. And it was so hard to believe.
That night I lay on the couch, running fever from a nasty cold I was coming down with, and watching the replays of the day's footage - and crying.
The most notable things I remember were the the "demon faces" in the collapse clouds of the WTC towers. I remember when WTC 7 collapsed. I
remember a really doinky female reporter asking an FAA guy how the plane could have gotten into the Washington restricted airspace, and he told her
"well, the space is restricted, but if you have some one hell bent on violating it the restriction doesn't slow them down much"...so she repeats
the question "yeah, but HOW could they have gotten in a restricted airspace!?" and he finally said, "Lady, there aren't any fences up there."
LOL And then I remember an interview with Tom Clancy some time in the evening when the interviewer said, this is like something out of one of your
novels, and he said (I paraphrase), "I never would have written this plot. The publishers would have told me it was too unbelievable." That
statement really got me.
Six days after the attacks I had to make the first trans-Atlantic flight I had ever made. It was a business trip for my company. That was the day
that I realized 9/11 had been "the end of the world as we know it". I walked into the front doors of Love Field airport and there stood two
national guardsmen, automatic rifles hanging from their shoulders, and (contrary to some people's claims) BANANA CLIPS IN. I stopped for like half a
second, and then walked straight into the first bathroom I could find...and I sat down in a stall and cried for a long time. It was so "unAmerican"
feeling...it looked like scenes I had seen in Mexico during a couple of visits, but nothing like America.
Our flight from Detroit to Amsterdam was delayed 30 minutes on the tarmac as they escorted a middle-eastern man from the 747 I was on. I sat in my
seat thinking - gee, what a mass of humanity this plane represents, and then I thought to myself - I HOPE THEY GOT HIS LUGGAGE!
And then finally, that year would have been my first chance to go to the Texas State Fair in October, but I just couldn't do it. I remember telling
my daughter, we'll go next year - when I feel safe again. And though I feel ashamed to have felt that way, I'm proud to say, the next year my
daughter and I went to the State Fair - and had a blast...the good kind.
[edit on 9-3-2006 by Valhall]