Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Today's Events

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Note: Originally posted on the EAGLE online community site, behind IBM's firewall on 11 September 2001, at 1: 40pm, and posted here on 24 May 2007:

I hope and pray that everyone associated with the EAGLE database is safe, along with our loved ones. I am. My loved ones are, to my knowledge.

I took an early-morning meeting at home in Montclair, NJ, then drove in to Manhattan, to 590 Madison. I was channel-surfing, as I always do in my car, among the NYC-based pop radio stations when Jammin' 105[.1] FM announced at ~ 9 am that there was an accident at the World Trade Center on the 100th floor. I live 14 miles from midtown Manhattan and I can see the World Trade Center from the Meadowlands during my drive.

It looked like the set of a Sylvester Stallone/Bruce Willis/Arnold/Tom Cruise movie. I thought I was crazy. Everyone was driving with only one eye on the road, especially as we drove around the curve toward the Lincoln Tunnel, where all of us had a distant bird's-eye view of the damage. By then, all of the pop radio stations were broadcasting emergency news about two plane crashes.

I called my assistant Jean on my cell phone to let her know I was on my way in, but more so so as not to feel alone in the experience. I got voicemail.

So this was what I sounded like in a crisis. Disbelieving. Human natureish. Not super-mature. Also, not insane, hysterical or panicked. But definitely not cool either. I reached Pat on the cell phone as it sunk in that it wasn't fiction. She said, I turned on my computer and saw it on Still, it didn't occur to either of us for me to turn around and come home, but by then it would have been impossible anyhow.

My stream of traffic was among the last they let into the tunnel, I guess, around 9:15 am, because two police cars made us move over, so they could race through. I saw a total of two people smiling today and one was in Stamford, CT, in a parking lot of an A&P, where I had to go for a detour, as the fire dept. put out a fire at a small store across the street. What a contrast with what I had witnessed earlier in the day, but no less tragic for any of the victims.

I got into the office, turned on Sametime, heard from a number of colleagues, including my manager and my counterpart Joseph, which was especially comforting, since not much else seemed to be going routinely. Then I went to visit Jean. She was stricken. Much of her floor was huddled around a TV.

Back upstairs, I passed a manager, rubbing the back of one of her employees. I saw a visiting Client Executive of one of our major accounts climb on her hands and knees on a neighboring desk to peek out the window down at the raging sirens as they passed.

Next time I passed the employee, a First Aid person was administering to him as he lay on the floor. I imagine that one of his loved ones was in the World Trade Center this morning.

A Sametime message was waiting for me when I returned from the ladies room. Mike was telling me to go home. I told Jean that I hoped she could do likewise.

I wrote out the Shema, the central prayer of Judaism, on the back of my business card and left it by the employee's ThinkPad, which was still on, so he'd see it whenever he got back to gather his things. "My prayers are with you," I added in English. The employee wears a yalmulke to work, so I figured I wasn't being inappropriate.

When I left the building, the guard opened the door for me, which is never done, so I know they were on high-alert to see who was coming and going. At the advice of the garage attendant up the street, where I had parked, I drove straight north on Madison Ave. The entire way up, I could see the monster-cloud in my rearview mirror. I listened to Peter Jennings of ABC News the whole way.

At 122nd St., my cell phone rang. It was Mercy Godoy, Mike Fuller's assistant, seeing how I was doing, and whether I had gotten out of the city yet. I told her I felt lonely, driving by myself northward and not even certain that I'd be able to leave the city when I got to the top of it, but also grateful for her call. Before and after her call, the cell phone was not operational.

Three of my first attempts to leave Manhattan were thwarted. It took me 90 minutes, but by 12:30, I was able to turn onto 181st and take the Cross Bronx Expwy. to 95 North, and finally to my mom's house. I felt that I had left a war-zone, and that that was not an overstatement.

As I made my way up Manhattan, every neighborhood, impoverished and privileged alike, was full of pedestrians with troubled expressions, but also a respectfulness for the occasion and I saw a lot of direct eye contact among them and also with me. It seemed that so many of those I looked at looked back at me. We were mirrors of one other's expressions. I saw parents on the Upper East Side and in Harlem, holding their kids' hands tightly as they took them home from school.

Blocking off one of the cross-streets in Harlem, I saw a big 4x4 with "Ridgefield Fire Department Chief" emblazoned on it. I looked closely and saw that it was labeled in smaller font below, "Ridgefield, New Jersey." That was one of the most touching sights, that a New Jersey fire dept. chief came to help.

Once in Stamford, along the way to my mom's house, I noticed that the synagogue, where we belonged, and where my mom still belongs, looked deserted. Only the "Israel Solidarity Day: Sept. 23rd, New York City " placard on the lawn was a visible sign of humanity there. At the Jewish Center, also on my way home, there were several cars in the lot, the same Solidarity placard, and two big security guys standing in the driveway -- not typical. The Italian Center's parking lot was full, but no one was on the tennis courts. The public golf course was free of golfers.

I reached Pat, who said that this felt to her like Pearl Harbor and that she was happy I was OK and that she'd see me whenever New Jersey was accessible again. I was so happy to ring my mom's bell and hear her saying, "Thank God," as she came down the stairs to open the door. I'm signing off now to spend the rest of this unbelievable day with my mother.

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