Monday, 12 September 2011

Planes, trains and automobiles I

Part 1 - Planes

So yesterday was 11 September 2011. The 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. It's one of those significant moments in history where everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first found out. Here's my story:

I was working at Colt Telecom at the time, in the engineering team. We had a test lab in a basement, which looked something like the CDT workshops at school, only with a couple of rows of racks in one corner. I was chatting on IRC, and coordinating my galactic alliance in a game called Hyperiums, when a top member of my alliance, a chap called Samson who lived and worked in New York City, wrote on IRC "OH MY GOD, I JUST SAW A PLANE CRASH INTO THE OTHER TOWER!" or something along those lines.
I thought he was joking at first, but other reports started coming in on IRC, about there being a terrorist attack. A quick check on the CNN and Sky News websites confirmed the reports, and one of them (I think it was CNN) had a photo of some smoke coming out of the tower.
I said to my colleagues, one of whom was from the West Indies, one from Canada and one from Scotland, that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. I remember particularly well that Iain, the Scot, thought it was funny. He and I never saw eye to eye, not because he was about 2 feet taller than me, but because he was a linux geek and I wasn't. Anyway, I needed to find a TV.
I told my colleagues I was going to find a TV, and my boss (also Canadian) forbade me to go, so I went to the toilet instead. And carried on walking past the toilet, and up the road to Babe Ruth's Diner. This diner no longer exists. It's now a block of luxury apartments, but 10 years ago they had a huge projector TV for sports events. Only now it was showing CNN live, smoke bellowing out of the North Tower. At this point I got incredibly worried. I had an email from my sister the morning before, as she was in New York City. She said she was going to visit the World Trade Center "tomorrow morning" which meant, the morning of 11 September. I was transfixed, listening to the reports, watching the events unfold. Before my eyes I saw another plane crash into the South Tower. I immediately called my Dad to see if he was watching, and to ask if he had heard from my sister. He hadn't, but he had managed to get through to my uncle in Los Angeles.
I spent the next couple of hours watching the TV, before returning to the office. By this time my boss had realised the gravity of the situation, and when he heard my sister was supposed to be in the building, he was a little more understanding. I heard from my sister, via my Dad, later that day. She was alive and well, but naturally her return to the UK had been delayed due to the flight cancellations. I never heard from Samson again :(

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