Friday, September 10, 2010

Memories of 9/11 - and the rage that follows...

Since Blogger's "preview" is useless, I usually have to go through several cycles of post/edit/post/edit/post/ed... -- before I finally get a post "right."  It's too late, I am too tired, it's not going to happen.

Please - therefore - try to ignore any spelling/grammar/formatting/punctuation/whatever errors - if I can find the time and energy I'll fix them later.

I hope this is worth the trouble...

BTW - most of the "...quotes..." below are my best recollection, but some are so seared in my mind that I'll never forget them.  If they're not specifically marked as the latter, they're the former...

9 years later.

Can it really have been that long?

There's simply no way I can TOUCH Vanderleun's eloquence - and I wasn't in NYFC that horrible day - nor did I lose any family or loved-ones like CA - but I too have memories that will never leave me.

Before I go on, I probably should explain that though our company was largely unknown, it held a position of serious criticality for all telecom in all of North America!  I still can't understand why it wasn't a .gov agency, but it wasn't.  It WAS however literally make-or-break for an entire CONTINENT.  If we were destroyed, NOTHING could happen!

I'd flown out of Dulles Airport the day before - having gone there to meet a bunch of others from my company so we could fly together - ONE DAY before a similar American Airlines flight was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon. We were headed for Chicago, to a "tech conference" where all of our company's "biggest-of-the-big-heads" would be attending.

Most of us had pocket-knives ranging from 4-7 inches, mine was just shy of six, and my "leatherman" type tool was in my other pocket. No problem on 9-10, but on 9/12?? Right.

Anyhow, we'd arrived in Chicago the evening of 9/10, and - as is usually the case at such events - stayed up way to late in The Lounge consuming too much ETOH. As a result, not having done much drinking in too many years - I wasn't feeling too tough in the morning and didn't turn on my TV as I prepared for the day.

As I exited our hotel, I met up with our "head of security" - a youngish, VERY intense former SEAL named Paul - who said something along the lines of "Can you BELIEVE THAT S**T??!! GAME ON!!!!"


"Weren't you watching TV? TWO planes hit the WTC in NYFC!!"


As what he'd said began to filter through my formaldehyde-fogged brain, the import began to settle in...  Though I'd been feeling mildly nauseous before, now I was much more so.  It didn't help that my companion kept repeating --



We arrived at our "meeting space" where the CEO and the rest of Mahogany-Row insisted we proceed as planned.

I pounded juice and water, which combined with adrenaline quickly brought me out of the fog...

Our huge Auditorium opened into a large glassed-in atrium-type area, whose roof was also glass so you had a full, if neck-straining, view of the full height of the Sears Tower less across and just down the street.

I tried to concentrate on the conference, but - IT Security (physical and otherwise) being a large part of my responsibility - kept getting IMs from our DC & NY locations and FWDs of others from Paul.  The rumors were FLYING -- but we had no way to be sure they were rumors at the time.

"Another plane hit the Pentagon!"

"Car-bombs at the Capitol-building, State Dept and SCOTUS!"

"Bombs on Wall Street!"

Bombs at the FCC, and Agriculture! (Don't ask me - that's what they said...)

I eventually snuck out, looking for Paul.  WWIII was beginning, and we had to DO SOMETHING!!

I found him in the Lobby, as concerned as I was, having read the same IMs.  He wrote a note, I went inside and handed it to the CEO - who rolled his eyes and informed me "we're not going to worry about what's happening in NYFC, you need to concentrate on what's happening HERE."  and dismissed me with an imperious wave.

Stunned, I went back to Paul, and the 2 of us fumed for a bit, strategizing how we could get the attention of Management. 

During a small break, we tried to buttonhole the CEO again, but were told - with some vehemence and anger this time - "I DON'T CARE.  We're here to accomplish some things, and we're GOING to accomplish them!"

I realized then that he had NO IDEA what was happening - he knew some planes had crashed in NYFC, but that was it.

Paul and I returned to the Lobby, still chewing on the whole thing - then we went back to trying to find news updates.

Naturally, every news-site on he 'net was SWAMPED, and it took dozens of "refresh" attempts or more to get a page to even partially load, so and I was hitting CNN and Paul was trying some local affiliates hoping they wouldn't be getting slammed so hard.

After a few minutes, Paul yells "Holy S**T!!" and was out of his seat before I could even turn around.  He slapped my laptop closed and plopped his on top of it - showing me a page that said there was at least one plane still in the air, and it was believed to be headed for the Sears Tower!

Now we - somehow, without speaking - agreed that if it cost us our jobs we were going to get this stupid CEO's attention.  The TWO of us marched to the front, and Paul - did I mention he was pushing 6'6" or more? - quietly told the CEO we could do this the easy way or the hard way, but he WAS coming to the Lobby to speak with us.

He followed us out, and I shut up as Paul attempted to make him understand, but seemed to be getting nowhere.  By this time, my rage and concern had reached a point that I no longer cared about my job, so I bodily spun him around and said

"Look!  You see that gigantic f***ing black building right there?  The one that's bigger than the WTC by a significant margin?  The one who - if a BASEBALL goes through a window is going to drop gigantic pieces of plate-glass on your empty-@$$ HEAD??!!

THAT is the Sears Tower - the BIGGEST G*D-D**NED building on the PLANET, and an even BETTER target for people looking to collapse buildings."

I grabbed him by his lapel, and said "FOLLOW ME!" - heading for the auditorium door, somewhat bodily dragging him along.  I threw the door open...

"You see THAT?  **THAT** is 99% of the brain-power in your whole f***king COMPANY.  If even HALF of these people were killed or quit, YOU ARE OUT OF BUSINESS!"

I then dragged him back across the lobby to where our laptops were sitting.  I pointed to Paul's screen...




He stood, stunned, for long seconds -- apparently I'd gotten his attention.

He was perhaps overwhelmed for a bit - I watched his sudden awareness, and his sore @$$ (from the reaming I'd just delivered) do battle with his "I'm the BIG BOSS!" mentality for a bit before he visibly shrank, took a deep breath, and said "Alright, what do we need to do."

"FIRST thing, we need to get these people OUT OF HERE.  Tell them to FIRST catch up with the other(s) with whom they share knowledge, skills and duties - only long enough to make sure they DO NOT leave together.  We'll then split them into 2 rough groups as they leave.  Give us a minute, and we'll plan separate routes back to our hotel for the groups, and find a couple of capable people to lead each group.

By the time you're done with your announcement, we SHOULD be ready to go, but just in case don't tell them to leave until you see Paul or Me at the door waving you on! 

When you're done with that, come back to us with whatever other Maho... er... 'Leadership' folk you think appropriate and we'll plan next steps."

He didn't argue at all, he just nodded, spun on his heel and headed for the podium.

I looked at Paul, and said "We REALLY need to get these people out of DOWNTOWN -- at LEAST into the SUBURBS!  He agreed, and decided we'd lead off with that when Mr. CEO returned - but at the moment we needed to get moving.  I went to my LT to look at maps and plan 2 routes, then to write them down on a legal-pad since we had no printer.  Paul went into the back of the auditorium, waited the long moments until the speaker handed over to the CEO, then spoke up and called "STAT!" for 4 guys who we knew were tough, smart and level-headed.  He also told the CEO to proceed as planned, we'd be ready by the time he was finished with his announcement.

The Guys jogged out, and in just seconds we told them "We have to split, then double-time these people back to the hotel.  We will explain later, but this is URGENT.  We need 2 to walk at the head of a group, and 2 to hang back and help direct the lemmings that are about to pour out that door."

The CEO made his announcement, and people began asking questions instead of moving.  To his credit, the CEO firmly said "Talk later, MOVE NOW!"

We managed to get our 4 guys in position just seconds before the people started pouring out.  Paul and I began repeating "make sure you're NOT walking with your 'twin', people -- need half to go left, and the other half right -- just follow the guy standing in the doorway!"

We also took up positions near the exit to ensure that people we knew were separating and not traveling in a bunch - directing some individuals in such groups to one line or the other.  The other guys at the doors were telling them "just follow the guys ahead of you!"

We got a few calls from the "walk leaders", and decided to take over the restaurant in the hotel as it would still be closed for a bit, then asked one of the VPs who dealt with such things to get us a conference room -- preferably in the basement -- at the hotel ASAP.  Have our people help set up chairs and tables if needed, but get them into as much shelter as possible ASAP.

When we finally got everyone out, the VPs were all pretty upset.  Paul - being higher than (but not "above") me on the org-chart - took over, after making it clear to all that I was to chime in at will.

We first explained the crisis - and the obvious need for US to get the f*** out of here ASAP - then repeated that we needed to get our people - or at least (the RIGHT) HALF of them - out of this city ASAP.

One - who was FROM Chicago - said he knew of a charter-bus service.  Paul and I told him "Call them NOW", then caught ourselves and looked to Mr. CEO.  He chuckled, and said "for the duration,Paul's in charge."


So, with one VP looking up some charter-busses, the next thing was to find at least 2 hotels to put people in - preferably separated by several miles (minimum) for better survivability.  Another VP went to work on that through the company "travel office."

Next we agreed that we needed all managers to meet us on our arrival at the hotel - and that we could finish the rest of this on our way - so we headed out.  Someone (me?) called to ask "the guys" to ensure everyone remained in the ballroom and didn't take off for their rooms, and to set up a space for our "managers' meeting".

On the way we discussed what to do about getting all these people home - it was by then news that all planes were grounded, and we all expected they'd be grounded indefinitely. 

We also needed to consider feeding them, some creature-comforts on the way, etc, and a bunch of other minutia that would need to be dealt with.  We agreed to meet later, after the "Managers' meeting" to hash it out.

At the managers' meeting, we gave them all a rundown on the situation, and our plans.  We made them understand that it was POSSIBLE - though not probable - that some, half (or ALL) of our people could die, and that it was CRITICAL that we split up our brain-power as much as possible.  NOBODY with similar knowledge and skills could be allowed to travel together, the goal was to ensure that if one bus was destroyed, the people on another could keep our business afloat.

We all agreed that in the cases where all the people were from the same place, thus needing to be on the same bus, that some of each would be bussed to a different city, put up in comfort and flown home first-class when possible -- all at company expense.

Managers having agreed to handle the bus-assignments, busses chartered for the duration, the company "travel office" ready to make arrangements for anyone being displaced, we quickly sorted out the "comforts" stuff.

We decided the busses would stop at the nearest Wal Mart, and  the company would reimburse up to $30 per person for whatever they needed to make the trip less brutal.  We suggested pillows, blankets, snacks, etc.  There'd be a big cooler with ice and various drinks, and we'd be stopping for meals so  no need to worry about those.

 By this time, someone had brought in a TV on a steel cart, and we all got our first views of the damage in DC and NYFC.  I vividly remember the horror as we saw (in replay) the plane hit the 2nd tower, and how much worse it was when we saw the towers fall.

I remember 2 things most vividly - as if they'd just happened.  Unlike my other quotations - which are approximate and to the best of my recollection - these two are 100% VERBATIM.

First, when I saw the towers fall, I jumped to my feet and said "THAT WAS AN IMPLOSION!!  THAT MEANS EXPLOSIVES!!"

Paul - former SEAL who certainly knew a bit about demolitions - agreed.  I'm not saying I STILL believe that - the logistics of rigging those buildings while continuing business-as-usual just aren't feasible IMHO - but that was my impression at the time.

My second proclamation was - sadly - much more accurate.  "This is the END of the US as we've known it.  Those bastards just MURDERED Lady Liberty."

Every day since, I've wished I'd been wrong.

The trip home was TORTURE - those busses were made for day-trips, not 1500-mile, cross-country marathons.  We stopped 3 times a day for meals - usually "rest-area" "food courts", and otherwise drove straight through.  It took us roughly 36 hours to get to our DC office.  Everyone was safe, and eventually made it home.

Of course, as we now know, Flight 93 went into the dirt near Shanksville, PA.  There remains - even now - much speculation about where it was heading, but you need only look at what it DID in the air to see that Chicago wasn't outside possibility -- and IMHO (based on its flight path) the Sears tower was much more likely than the White-House to have been its target.

I then tried to get my rental-car -- and thus the rest of my belongings -- out of the "long-term" area at Dulles.  A co-worker shared a cab with me as his car was there too.  When we turned into the parking area, we immediately met a road-block where they'd placed concrete sections of jersey-wall and a "lift bar" to prevent our just weaving around them.

A man in a black trench coat and pants, white shirt and black tie was -- oddly -- the one manning the gate.  He approached our car to say "Turn it around - lot's CLOSED."  Our middle-eastern cabbie was ready to roll, but I wasn't.

"Yessir - I just need to get my car..."

"The LOT is CLOSED!  Turn it around..."

"I'm sorry sir - I'm not helping you to understand -- my car is..."

Tired of dealing with morons, he pulled back his trench-coat and gripped the grip on his Uzi - thankfully not pointing it, but making it d**n clear that was next - as he said "No... YOU are the one who apparently doesn't underSTAND!



I smiled and said "I UNDERSTAND!" - but had to shout it because Cabbie had slammed into reverse and hit the gas as soon as he realized what was under the coat.

We turned around -- the lot was closed!!

This meant I had to rent ANOTHER car to get to my lodgings - and it was (IIRC) 3 weeks before they let the cars out of the lot.  I ended up having a co-worker from the DC office get and return the car for me, and ship my stuff.

Paul and I were eventually recognized as "employees of the quarter" for the steps we'd taken to alert management and plan/help lead evacuation.  This being the second time I'd been involved in saving the company from a MAJOR loss, I also gained a lot of respect from most of those on Mahogany row - though in the process a few somehow decided to be my enemy instead -- all stories for another time...

If you've read this far, my point with this missive was to show how my life - and ~250 others - was impacted on that day.  The real impact went on for weeks, but the psychological impact - like Vanderleun and countless others - will be with me for the rest of my life.

I was TERRIFIED for my wife and kids - and utterly impotent at such a great distance to do ANYTHING other than call and try to warn Wifey.

Of course, all the rumors about bombs - car and otherwise - proved to be unfounded, part of the fog of war, yet my eyes were opened as never before.  I'd always WANTED to "prep" - talked about it a lot - but never really thought it necessary before that day, at least not necessary enough to get serious about it.  We'd managed to get a month or so ahead on the groceries - and I've always had the guns-and-ammo - but otherwise we'd have been caught flat-footed had the S really HTF for us then.

It also brought home - in an unmistakeable way - how serious even a frivolous "party" trip (like I'd expected this one to be) could actually be.

Like most others, I too ground my teeth in rage on that day - and in the days to follow - wanting RETRIBUTION.  Let's make a bunch of desert glass!!

To be honest, I wanted Dubya to nuke Mecca - and frankly still wish he had - along with the rest of Saudi Arabia.  Afghanistan?  Sure - some of them trained there, but the place was basically stone-age to begin with, rendering "let's bomb 'em back to the stone-age" a pretty moot point.

Vaporize Mecca however, and - though it would unquestionably produce some "islamic rage" - you'd have sowed some MAJOR seeds of doubt among the death-cult's adherents.  If Allah cannot protect his holiest shrine, then what CAN he do?  I believe they'd have begun to have some serious doubts...

As it turned out, we talked a lot of crap, but then pretty much got fought to a standstill by a bunch of rag-tag Insurgents.  When we leave either country, they'll be no more "advanced" than they were when we went in, and given our idiotic _resident's idiotic ROE and even more idiotic decisions to - of all things - "work with" the Taliban?  In their minds - and most Afghans' as well - this means THEY WON!  THEY defeated "the great satan" and the shouts of "allahu akhbar" will echo for a century or more.

They're not defeated, they're EMBOLDENED.

Turn Mecca into glass?  THAT would have shown them the might of their "Great Satan" and the impotence of their "god."

Sadly, it's too late to do anything about it THERE, but I believe the impact is still viable on THE REAL America.

We're just getting started.


1 comment:

Nanders said...

This is off topic, but the only way I know to contact you.

I have some questions/thoughts that I would like some help with. I don't think that they are appropriate for your blog comments section.

My questions deal with fortitude and what a persons civic duty entails.

I am a Christian, and am looking for advice from another Christian. I do not know if you are a Christian or not, because if have mentioned it in prior posts I have missed it.

I respect your time, and if you are willing to discuss these things a bit with me, I will do my best to be to the point so as not to waste your time.

My email address is

If you choose not to correspond, that is fine, but I would ask if you might be willing to point me toward someone that could work with me a bit on this.