Tomorrow marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Tomorrow I’ll begin my day just like I did on 11 September 2001 and each year since. I’ll wake up early, take my shower, get dressed and head downstairs for my morning coffee and to watch the morning news. I’ll spend a few minutes thinking about my grandfather as this year would have marked his 98th birthday, then between the thoughts of my grandfather and the images of the 9/11 memorials, reading of the names and the moments of silence, this 52 year old man will ball his eyes out for much of the rest of the morning.
On the morning of Tuesday, 11 September 2001…it was like any other morning for me. My weekday morning ritual hasn’t changed much since college. For much of my adult life I have been an early riser. At this particular time in my life I was living alone. My now wife (who I had met a few months prior) was still living in England and I was scheduled to leave Denver to fly to London on Friday, 14 September. I had just sat down on my sofa with coffee in hand about 6:30 AM MT. I remember (just like it was yesterday) the morning news anchors (Fox News) talking about what a beautiful fall-like day it was in New York City. As I only lived about 5 minutes from my office, I would often leave my apartment about 6:45 AM to allow myself plenty of time to be in the office just before 7. But this morning…and I can’t explain why, I felt the need to stay on the sofa a bit longer and finish that first cup of coffee.
The first plane hit the World Trade Center at 6:46 AM MT. Within what just felt like seconds, Fox News was showing the smoke pouring from the north tower. The news folks kept talking about what a beautiful day it was in NYC and initial speculation was somehow a sightseeing aircraft must have accidently crashed into the WTC. Being interested in aviation, I decided to continue watching the news that morning for just a few minutes longer. With my coffee cup in one hand, and the TV remote in the other…I was just about to click the off button when the second plane crashed into the south tower. It was obviously clear the first plane was no accident and something terrible was playing out before our very eyes.
At the time, I was working for a small tech company and part of my day to day role dealt with crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery. Without knowing everything that was occurring in New York City, I decided I had better get to the office as we had offices and customers in the NYC area and I would need to begin looking into how these events would impact our operations. By the time I reached the office, the third plane had crashed into the Pentagon and we all watched in shock and horror as both the South and North towers collapsed and we eventually learned of the fourth plane crashing in Pennsylvania.
In the days after the attacks, I would come home, have dinner and watch the news to try to understand what had happened and why. Generally just before bedtime, I would go for a walk around the park next to my apartment. The extremely noticeable lack of aircraft was deafening.
What does all this have to do with flight sim?
Just a few months prior to the 9/11 attacks, the VATSIM network began operations and I had just started flying (virtually of course) for an American Airlines virtual airline. Just a few days before 9/11 I had assumed the role of VP of Operations of the VA. After the attacks of 9/11 and during the period of time the FAA had grounded all civilian air traffic, VATSIM also shut down their servers out of respect. As I felt then, and still do to this day…the actions taken by VATSIM were correct and extremely commendable.
What I’m going to say next is going to be very unlike me. I don’t typically mix politics and/or real world issues into my writings. But in the days after 9/11, everywhere you looked American flags were proudly flying. We were all Americans…we were all proud to be Americans and we stood behind our President as proud Americans. Today, 17 years later…we barely resemble the same country. We’re as divided as we’ve ever been in my lifetime and there’s so much hate towards not only our President, but also for law enforcement. No longer can people simply just disagree. Disagreement often leads to various accusations including racism, sexism etc.
I pray daily for peace, I pray daily that the events we witnessed on this day 17 years ago won’t happen again and I pray daily for our country. I pray that we as once proud Americans can once again be at peace with one another and that patriotic spirit which makes this the greatest country on earth can heal our divided wounds.
Thank you for reading.
P.S. I’ll return next Monday with my usual non-political style of writing, until then…..may God continue to bless us all and may we all strive for peace and kindness in everything we do.
There have been events in history where individuals will always remember where they were, who they were with and what they were doing when the event happened. For the generation of my grandparents, that day was December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. For the generation of my parents, that day was November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. As I watched the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster unfold on January 28, 1986 I was certain this would be the day which I would clearly remember for the rest of my life and certainly hoped none other would ever prove to be greater. After all, I was only 19 years old, in my first year of college and grew up in small town Texas. By the way, I still do remember very much what I was doing, who I was with and where I was on that tragic day.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001 began just like every other day for me. I woke up early (around 6 AM MT) I had showered, dressed and was downstairs drinking a cup of coffee and watching Fox News by 6:20 AM. This was pretty much a morning ritual for me. Because my commute was less than five minutes, I typically wouldn’t leave my apartment until around 6:45 or so. On this day, I wasn’t in that big of a hurry. I had been working long hours as I was planning to fly to London later that week. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day in the mile high city and from what I could see while watching Fox News, New York City was also looking beautiful.
My apartment was relatively small. From my kitchen I could hear the TV in the living room and heard the initial report of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. The time was 6:46 AM MT (8:46 AM ET). I stepped into the living room and watched/listened for updated news. Initial reports was it was a small airplane (perhaps a sightseeing plane) which hit the WTC. The Fox anchors talked about how clear the sky was overhead in NYC. Thoughts of perhaps the pilot suffered a heart attack or aircraft malfunction were more or less what most believed had happened.
As the time approached the top of the hour, I was really intrigued in what had happened. I remember at the top of the hour Fox and Friends passed it off to Jon Scott who happens to be a pilot. Again for several minutes the speculation into what had happened to the pilot or to the airplane was the topic of discussion. Fox had switched to an anchor outside the studios and I was just about ready to turn the TV off and drive to the office. Again, it looked like an accident and I would follow up with what happened once I got to the office.
As I was reaching for the remote, what I saw next on TV will forever be in my memory. It was 7:03 AM MT (9:03 AM ET) when the outside live shot showed a second plane flying into the second tower of the World Trade Center. It became clear to me and to the entire nation that we were under attack. Yes, one aircraft could accidentally hit the WTC, but two? Absolutely not. It was also very clear the second plane was not a small sightseeing plane, but a large airliner. For the next 15 minutes or so I sat on the edge of my sofa watching the events unfold in New York City. I (and certainly like many Americans) was in total dis-belief at what I had just watched happen.
Part of my job responsibilities (both then and now) was/is to manage our business continuity and disaster recovery processes for the customer support organization at my company. While we (at the time) didn’t have an office in the NYC area, I wanted to get into my office so that I could be prepared for what ever else might happen on this day. At this time, only the two WTC towers had been attacked. I was not aware there were two other planes.
I quickly drove to the office and of course most everyone had already heard about the attacks in NYC. I’m asked by a colleague if I had heard of the events and said yes, I had watched the information regarding New York. He said, but have you heard about Washington DC? It soon became very clear this was not just an attack on New York and the World Trade Center. This was much, much larger.
Internet access from the office became really slow with employees checking the various news sites, emailing friends and family. We had small TV’s in the lobby of the building connected to a DirecTV feed and I went down to try to get more information. I was not only concerned about what other attacks might be planned, but also on the WTC attack which I had watched earlier from my apartment. I wanted to see what progress had been made on extinguishing the fires and of course get updates on the rescue efforts.
I made it downstairs to one of the TV’s. Smoke was still pouring from the top of both towers, within seconds the south tower began to collapse. I honestly couldn’t believe what I was watching. It wasn’t long after the south tower collapsed that we heard word of United Flight 93 crashing near Shanksville, PA. I had already went back upstairs to make a few phone calls. I remember hearing some employees talking about the north tower collapse. Again…I just couldn’t believe it.
At some point in the day, an announcement was made or perhaps there was a company email. But what ever the delivery mechanism, the message was to let us all know that all employees had been accounted for. I doubt very seriously if much work got done that day. As I said, I was scheduled to fly to London in a few days. After hearing about all flights being grounded for possibly a few days, I spoke to my boss and determined I would not be traveling as scheduled.
I remember going home and making myself a fairly stiff drink. Sometime around 9 PM I went out to the hot tub. It was a cool evening and I remember looking up in the sky and seeing and hearing nothing. This was odd as I lived near the flight path for Centennial Airport (KAPA) and Denver International (KDEN) is only about 25-30 miles and at just about any time of the day and evening you can see the planes coming in for landings and departing. I do recall hearing a few jet fighters and seeing various types of military aircraft. I’m sure this was the case over most every major metropolitan city.
Like many Americans, I did a lot of praying and in doing so asked God a lot of questions. I have tried to pray for peace each and every day since the attacks and pray for the those who are making sacrifices and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedoms both at home and abroad.
In 2005 through the course of two acquisitions, Oracle acquired Peoplesoft who had acquired JD Edwards in 2003. On the four year anniversary of 9/11 I learned something I didn’t know previous. While JD Edwards didn’t lose any employees in the attacks, Oracle had lost eight employees that day. Most will know the name of one employee in particular. This employee, along with many other brave individuals fought back in what possibly should be considered the first battle won over terrorism and that employee was Todd Beamer. Todd and many other brave individuals fought back on United Flight 93. While they gave their life, they did it so many others could live. Of course we now suspect that Flight 93 was headed for the US Capitol Building or the White House.
In 2007 I realized a childhood dream to get my amateur radio license. I remembered the speech which President George W. Bush made in January 2002 when he announced the creation of the USA Freedom Corps. During that State of the Union address, President Bush asked Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves. I answered that call by joining the Denver Police Depts. Volunteers in Policing Unit and DAREC, Denver Amateur Radio Emergency Communications. In the course of just 3 years I had volunteered over 250 hours in that program.
Yes it is easy to say “I’ll never forget”. Through illness or old age there may come a time when I just don’t remember. But for now, I will remember and each year on September 11th (as I have done for the past 9 years), I’ll wake up early and I’ll go downstairs, make a cup of coffee, turn on the TV (yes Fox News Channel) and I’ll say a little prayer and prepare myself to watch, to remember and even cry a little. I hope all American’s will remember, I hope all American’s will pray and I hope all American’s will cry a little.
Thank you for reading and for allowing me to cross post this across my different blogs.
God Bless the United States of America.