9/11, Five years later

Five years and one day ago was September 10th, 2001 and I had just flown in to Boston-Logan Airport that day to begin another week with my client. I was an independent contractor at the time and was working on a large project for Sun Microsystems, Workscsape Inc, and General Motors. The week of 9/10/01 was a week of system load testing and performance testing. So I flew in during the morning and went to the client site. This type of work had to be done at night when users were not on the system, so during the day I got settled in, answered emails, and re-checked the testing systems and monitoring systems for the evening’s test. The testing started at 6:00 PM and went until about 4:00 AM on 9/11/01. After the testing was over I went to my hotel and fell fast asleep. Prior to going to bed, I shut off the ringer on my cell and set the alarm for noon to I could get up, get ready and back into the office for the next night’s testing.

I know it was very tough for people to watch the events of the morning of 9/11 to unfold before them and it essentially numbed our nation. However I think the way I found out was very tough, if not tougher. I woke up with my alarm and immediately noticed that my voicemail light on the phone was blinking. I remember thinking “glad I turned that ringer off”. I opened my phone to see multiple missed calls from my wife, brother and parents. I also saw a few text messages that told me to call home ASAP. My heart dropped as the first thought was something happened to one of my parents. I called my wife who told me to turn on the TV. As I did, she was rattling off what had happened “planes into both towers, both towers are down, one plane into the Pentagon, one plan crashed near Pittsburgh (where my brother and his family lives), the country under attack, planes being grounded, etc. etc. etc.”. This is where I experienced what I call “information overload”. My mind honestly could not handle what I was hearing from my wife and seeing on the TV. She was telling me the towers were down, but my mind was seeing pre-recorded images of the towers standing and burning and I was arguing with her telling her “no they are not, I can still see them standing”. My mind could not comprehend what I was seeing. It was a very emotional and confusing moment. After I hung I up from her, sitting on the end of the bed in my hotel room, I wept just plainly wept. Crying for my country, and my fellow Americans. As I drove into the office, I was on the phone with my National Guard unit trying to make contact with someone and angrily asking what I could do and when we were being called up. The next day I was flying about 90 mph down the I-90 back to Buffalo.

Five years later on September 10th, 2006 I was loading up for a night operation and sitting out on watch, looking through thermal sights for an elusive enemy that may try to attack on the eve of the anniversary. I was part of an element over-looking and standing by as a Quick Reaction Force to respond in case anything happened to several of our teams and ANA that were out of the wire setup in ambushes. Rather than load testing servers, I was loading a M2 .50 cal MG.

Not long after midnight, they tried their luck. The enemy hit the flank of one of our ambushes which opened a barrage of small arms and machine gun fire. At this point the ANA QRF was loaded up, the 50 cal was chambered and we were rolling out. Mortar illumination was called for, and the radio was busy with cross-talk and updates as the situation was developing and decision makers were trying to develop courses of action. We were out and hunting the ever-elusive enemy. The first reports from the battlefield are always wrong, as is often said and proven. Once we got out to the attack site, more information was provided and we went hunting. As we bounced around going cross-country through farming fields with one hand on the rear grips of the .50 cal and the thermal sight in the other I was hunting hard for targets. However we got there too late and they slipped away. The Afghan police showed up and we searched some Kulats but nothing was found. Eventually we came back to base around 4:30 AM in the morning.

So five years ago I was starting to load-testing some servers for GM around 6:00 PM, and finished around 4:00 AM, and this time I was loading a .50 cal at 7:30 PM and finished hunting for the enemy around 4:30 AM. Who would have ever thought?

One last ironic thing is that when I woke up today, on 9/11/06 it was just before noon after being out so late in the morning. The timeframe similarities are very striking. The rest of the day was spent flying flags for 9/11, cleaning the truck from last night, changing out batteries, and re-packing gear for another fun-filled night.

This will also be my last post for a while. I am going to be out of pocket for a week or two, so for those that follow the blog, I am sorry. It will be silent for a while, no reason to worry.

Until Next time…..

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