It was a Tuesday like any other: Gary was in from Indiana, Andre and his boss were in from Agawam, and it day two of meetings before the Mitem folks headed back around 2pm. The call center was plugging along as they always did and Scott and I had just gotten back from getting coffee at the Klatch. Ready to face the day, but not really moving all that quickly to the meetings, we were all just loitering around my, Roberta’s and Mark’s cubes, talking about things that were, probably, inconsequential, killing time until the 9:00 meeting. Then everything changed.
Greg’s exclamations from the charge desk were echoed from the folks in the break room. Reps were starting get up from their desks to see what was going on and the busy chatter than normally gave life and energy to the call center was all but gone. Rep and manager alike were gathering around the television, watching with incredulity and increasing shock and disbelief. At first, it didn’t seem real – it looked for the world like a scene straight out of “Die Hard.” Then, the second jet hit the second tower.
Surreality was enveloping everyone watching – just amazing and horrifying and continuously unfolding before our eyes. So much confusion on the television, disbelief and lack of information made for confused and scared witnesses. Andre and his boss had just been told that there weren’t going to be any flights into Boston Logan for the rest of the day. Then the third jet crashed into the Pentagon.
All at once the contentious, usually heated meeting all but disappeared with more situational panic than a desire to discuss the finer points of middle-ware compatibility issues with legacy applications. The meeting turned into everyone on their individual cell phones getting ahold of loved ones and co-workers close to the targeted areas. Andre shrugged an affable, but obviously agitated shrug as he announced that he was just told that there were no flights going anywhere…indefinitely. The US had just grounded all fights for the first time in recorded history. Our group was regrouping in the cube hall by the main entrance, discussing options both for what we were going to do for the software development and how we were going to get our consultants back home to Massachusetts. This discussion was interrupted by “What the f…” and “Oh my god!” from the charge desk. The South Tower just collapsed.
We moved back to the break room, again, just in time for the breaking story that a fourth jet had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, but it was unclear as to the reason. We were glued to the news – every channel was the news – while continuing to find a way home for the Mitem folks; so far, all rental companies were out of cars – and the hold times were amazing, by that point. Then the North Tower collapsed. It was standing room only in the break room.
The rest of the day is largely a blur of emotion and that’s about it – the calls to the call center turned, for the most part, from calls about issues with power or gas to counseling calls. Our reps were awesome, handling each call professionally in the face of a national tragedy that touched every person, deeply. I don’t remember writing any code. I don’t recall doing any unit testing. I just remember sitting with Scott and Andre back in the server room trying to come to terms with what was going on in the world around us.
We all stayed a little later than normal. I seem to remember the Mitem crew’s rental being a quasi-compact that would be ready after 6, so we all stayed as long as we could with those fellows, since they were going to have a 14-hour drive ahead of them. We pumped them full of a LOT of coffee. So, I remember leaving about 5:45pm, after everything had happened, and being completely drained. It was the most surreal drive home I’ve ever had. Basically, all traffic disappeared once I passed 275, heading north. I believe, for the most part, schools were let our early to get everyone home because, at that moment in time, every square inch of the United States was considered a target zone. So, it was just me, my thoughts, and 25 miles to go. Equally surreal was how empty the sky was. I encountered only one jet flying during the entire drive, and, from what I’ve been told, later, it was the backup to Air Force One being moved to Wrigh-Patt Air Force Base.
That day, the nation, as a whole, was struck a blow. Nearly everyone I know has been affected in a profound way as a result. It’s still something that evokes strong feelings and is another “Where were you when?” milestone for millions of people. I don’t remember a lot about the majority of the day, or even the drive home, really. I just remember being exceedingly glad to arrive home, hug my wife and two sons, and move on from there.