Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11 2001

As the title suggests, it's about that day then, when the world we know here in the US changed, for everyone individually and as a nation. You can argue the history of the events before and after, but you can't argue our individual experience that day. It's our own as is our personal view of it and our life because of it.

For me, it started normally. I was a senior technical manager, meaning part of my job was to operate and manage the surface water - meaning rivers and lakes - data(base) for Washington - which is about 95% of all this data collected throughout the State and over the history of data collection. I did all the training and problem solving for users, who input, review, compute and produce the data, and guest accounts, who have read-only access to view all the data. It was one of the coolest jobs I've had helping everyone get their data into, through, computed and produced, to make sure the system worked.

In August I had gone to Denver for a week-long training for the latest major update to the software and database. And now in preparation to the installation locally, I had to conduct four training sessions for users on the new tools and proceedures. This session was the first in our Tacoma Office, and I had worked with the IT folks to get all the computers setup in the training room. I had all the handouts ready and at 8:30 am was simply waiting for everyone to arrive from the distant offices.

Then someone from IT came in to say I should watch the TV. We only had one TV in the office, in the conference room (stupid federal regulations about people not watching television at work). We all watched as the news told the story, replayed the footage of the airplanes crashing into the towers, and the live coverage of the towers. We watched them fall.

Over the next hour or so, the word came down to close all the federal offices and all employees go home. We did, and I went home to turn on the TV and watch as the story unfolded on the small screen. There wasn't anything to say, just listen and watch. I guess I was more struck by the buildings falling than the planes flying into them. It was slowly clear it was an act of terrorism, but why and how did the buildings fall, I kept asking myself. I didn't make sense.

And terrorism does? No, I've watched the news over the years of terorists hitting US and well as other nations targets, whether it's failed attempt in New York City, military barracks, US Embassies or US Navy warships. I knew this was done by terrorists wanting to send a message to the world. Not just to America, but the world. While many Americans died in the towers and in the rescue, many were also from other nations. It was after all, the World Trade Center.

It seemed they had succeeded in their greatest act to date. I remember the announcement grounded all US flights. That night and the next few nights, I sat on the deck to see the darkness of the skies without airplances. While it was enjoyable it felt strange. Something had silenced this nation. And while everyone remembers that day, it was the years afterward that would see the effects to each of us personally and nationally.

I won't put 9/11 in those momentus points in history, or just yet anyway, because I don't think it changed the face of this nation as some past events have been extraordinary events. I am troubled with the direction this nation is going from 9/11. I think we're losing our civil rights and liberties in the name of fear for something that has always been in the world's and our nation's history. 9/11 was only a bigger event than the rest.

I don't know if my memory of 9/11 will fade. Sometimes I hope it will. I want and think we should keep 9/11 in perspective and find a realistic and pragmatic way of living in the world after it.

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