Even eight years later, the memories of the events of September 11, 2001 are still with all of us and it is definitely one of those times when you always remember where you were when you heard the news. I was actually on a business trip, in Dallas, Texas. I had flown there the day before, on Monday, and was scheduled to fly home the evening of Tuesday the 11th after attending and presenting at a data center conference that day. The meeting started that morning and as the first presenters were speaking, I noticed several pagers going off around the room, not unusual, but there seemed to be more and more whispering among those in the audience. Finally the vice president stood up, interrupting the presenter, and told us some very sketchy details about the planes and the World Trade Center towers. We were instructed to take a short break and of course we were all horrified. One person had at daughter at Columbia, so she was quite concerned.
In addition to our thoughts about the people who were affected by this tragedy. I was concerned about my family and especially my daughters, who were 10 and 8 at the time. They seemed so far away and I knew it was going to be awhile before I could get home as we soon understood the gravity of the situation and that there was no air traffic going anywhere. We got back together and continued the conference, including my presentation later that day. Two guys and I began talking at the breaks about options and how we could get home to our families. One guy had a rental car and started talking about driving back to LA, but the VP wouldn’t hear of it at this point in time.
We all found hotel rooms for the night and then spent the next day sitting in the hotel lobby, watching the news, checking with our families and calling the company travel agent to determine when planes would fly again. Finally the travel agent told us that our best option was ‘to get in the rental car and start driving’. With this official sanction, we got into the car at 4pm on Wednesday and began to drive west. The three of us took turns driving and sleeping and the next 21 hours were a surreal journey through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and then to California. We saw small towns, with flags draped everywhere and signs of sympathy and prayer for our country. We drove through strong rainstorms and the endless darkness of western Texas and New Mexico. We never stopped for any longer than gas, comfort breaks and two McDonald’s runs.
As we reached Phoenix the next morning, one of the things I will never forget is driving by the airport and seeing the planes parked, frozen in time, with an unsettling silence in the sky. When we arrived at Long Beach Airport to drop the rental and retrieve our cars, the parking lot looked like kids had been at play, with vehicles strewed everywhere. It was great to finally be home and see my family and driving over 1,000 miles to get there was all worthwhile.
So I will never forget the events of 9/11, where I was and the tragic effect on our country and its people.