Saturday, September 17, 2011

UNTITLED . . .



When I first started this, I wasn’t sure I would post it, it seemed too personal and maybe banal, but this post is heartfelt and events of this scope can make us remember again why we cherish our lives, and our loves, even after ten years. Also, this post has nothing to do with homelessness. Well, maybe in a pretty figurative way, but even I have trouble connecting A to Z.  After reading again, I have decided to post this, because this is how I saw and felt it that day. I avoided the papers and the media before and after the 10th anniversary of the WTC bombings. I had my experience of the attacks and the aftermath.

It’s not often I can’t come up with a title for a blog entry right off the bat. Today is one of those rare exceptions. I can’t quite focus or really clear my mind and come up with a knee-slapper. Maybe it being September 12th 2011 (when originally created) has something to do with my worse than normal fogginess. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 I was working at Verizon, in the Southeast Region Tech Center, up around North Tampa. I worked in the complex that houses the CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) for the entire southeast region. I was also just home from a quick junket to teach a software application class developed in-house by Verizon and our fabulous in-house Software Development department, or whatever we called ourselves back in the day.

By 2001, I had worn many hats at Verizon; platform support/network support specialist (fancy babble for “reset idiots’ Unix, IBM 5250 and Win passwords,”) Lotus Notes support (which should have been run on an OS/2 platform, hence the constant garble of WinNotes Email, and effed up Data Bases) and managed to supervise 95 floor technicians, who on any given day, were “hosting” giant “parties” of “Doom” and hoping I wouldn’t hear/see their multi-player raids. I caught them occasionally, but far be it from me to bitch and report. They got a lash with a wet noodle, unless I was in-game on my work computer, then they got ignored. Just kidding, but I am a Clan Elder in Runescape. . . never mind.

I had kicked around in PC Support and Mainframe Support at Verizon and IBM and was driving around the Southeast, playing gigs and fixing customer’s computer bullshit from my hotel rooms at night. No wonder my marriage collapsed. I had gotten bored and stale with Tech Support and was offered a position in Development/Implementation. Much more fun was to be had installing and teaching classes in our software at various Verizon-type places for about a year before the Trade Center attack.

On the Wednesday before the planes hit the World Trade Center, I had flown over them at sunset, courtesy of Delta Airlines and Verizon. I had just finished a 3 day teaching gig at the old Bell Labs up above Boston, Massachusetts. I remember them, clear, detailed and vivid still. The Towers were molten gold and bronze. Coppers and greens glinted off the glass surfaces. The argent light made them appear almost live and to move as we flew over them.  They looked to be so permanent and so monumental. I thought they would be there always. I was given a gift from God that day. Beautiful and breathtaking they were and of course later, heart-breaking.

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was on my way to Verizon to teach a teleconference via Communications Bridge. You know, the “conference” call where twenty-five people all get on a line for four hour stints at once to “learn” the newest, hottest app of bug patches from Development. Some are playing rap in the background, some are eating their lunches. Most are anywhere on their PCs but where I have asked them to be, so they can “follow along” with the gibberish I’m trying to impart.

Once, about 3 hours into one such “class” I had gotten as far as teaching report-writing, with customizations of all the fields, to note one’s “metrics” (translation, are we squeezing every spare dime out of this poor schlub and can we hold him accountable when it all goes to hell?) Everything was “quantified, categorized and stuffed neatly into a pigeon-hole:” call length, call type, first-touch resolution, did the guy have a booger in his left nostril or his right? Does the guy’s “issue” have cooties? Are his pants on fire, or is his hair on fire? Did you follow the Sacred Flow Chart to fix the guy’s computer boo-boo? Did the fix involve the Magic 8-Ball tool, or the newer ESP app? Did the solution involve a Break-Fix and was it documented precisely, so we can reproduce the problem and the fix, or has it been lost in cyberspace?

And my personal favorite: customer happiness. I think “customer satisfaction” sucks as a term. Did Mick Jagger have a hand in helping Development write this bullshit app? Or did someone actually give a shit about whether the customer is happy or not? Most of my “customers” or “clients” were pretty pissed off with having to wait in the 2-hour queue to get to a sentient being. It was like talking to badgers. They didn’t give a shit about “satisfaction” and would have told me to sit on it, if I even asked that dumbass question, “Is your level of customer satisfaction satisfied or superior? Is it extraordinary? Are you satisfied with the level of service you’re received today? Are you satisfied with your level of satisfaction” What the hell is that? Okay, you bean-counting goons, I just tacked on another two minutes to a minute-and-a-half phone call because you all care? All I want to do is get the hell off the phone with Customer Service, after my shit is fixed. We’re not having a date here. You just blew my call times right out of the water.

Anyway, out of the chaos of all these people who have never heard of a mute button, comes this teeny, pathetic voice. “So, how do I get into the Start Menu here?” OMFG!!! What have we been doing the last three and a half hours? This was the same “class” where one of the “attendees” asked which of his “colleagues” was shoveling coal and eating peanuts at the same time. I actually got paid to do this.

As usual, I digress. I not only digressed, but I took the Local to Venus. Egad and zounds.

I left my house in Central Tampa at about 20 minutes to 9 that morning. It’s about 20 to 25 minutes from the Verizon Tech Center. As I was motoring up Nebraska Avenue, I turned on 970 WFLA. I tended to listen to talk radio when I drove, because I play so much music. The morning show is good; local personalities. I avoid Rush, Glenn (shame on Tampa for giving him a boost) but I love the morning folks.

I tuned in on the middle of an interview with some guy who was living less than six blocks from the WTC. I just caught the end about the plane hitting one tower. I thought, “Geeze, those poor towers. Flown into again? Bad luck, yadda-yadda.” In truth, I can’t remember specifics, but that was my general feeling. Then I heard this huge roar and people screaming. The radio interviewer lost his composure and the guy being interviewed was completely hysterical. I knew we were under attack.

I went from about 30 to 90 in less than two minutes. I ran red lights. I heard sirens, but never saw police, never saw fire trucks. I dodged other motorists, missing them I’m sure, by inches. I had to get to Verizon and in my Center before they shut it down. I parked in Visitor Parking and grabbed Wolf out of my back seat. It had taken me about seven minutes from the time I heard the second tower impact while on Nebraska Avenue to get to work in North Tampa. Wolf, or rather his case, weighs a ton. I schlepped viola and self up the drive and got to the walkway. The damn doors were closing. I took off my heels and sprinted. Squeaked just into the main area and ran up to the third floor, my lair. My cubby hole sat above all the Mainframes and Communications hardware for the Southeast, that were housed on the first and second floors. Wondered if we were a target.

We had huge plasma monitors covering two walls in a room that houses about 150 people. This place was never quiet. I could always hear the phones, people talking on Bridge calls, technicians asking questions, laughing and brainstorming. The hardware guys would be lugging stuff around, installing and un-installing stuff and adding to the din. This center is a hub for all sorts of telecommunications support, not just in the Continental U.S., but in Europe, Central America and parts of the Pacific.

It was always a noisy mess, but I loved the noisy mess part of it, as much as anything else in the job. The Center was funereal on that day. No phones ringing, no conversations, no hardware being shunted around. There were probably 80 or 90 people just standing, watching the monitors. The Towers were still standing. No one spoke. No one moved. I stood beside my boss, Kat Torres. An aside; Kat was the first person I met at IBM. I went to Verizon about two years after she left IBM for Verizon to work. Kat is my dear, dear friend. I am god-mother to her daughter. She and I stood there silent, crying. I have no idea how many hours we stood side by side. We left only to try and contact our loved ones.

The class was never officially canceled. I rescheduled a new time for the following Tuesday, but it would be almost a month before I gathered my people for another one. There were seven people from Verizon on the roof or roofs that day. I do not know the specifics, but I do know that some of the lines and routers continued to emit “handshakes” for a long time after that day. We could trace their IP signatures via the mainframes. I am not a hardware person. My expertise lies in software and networking, so I am unfamiliar with why this would be so. I used to monitor the transmittals regularly until they ceased. Why, I don’t know, but I felt compelled to see them, to make sure they were there. Maybe I hoped that against all reason, the people were still there. Most certainly I was mourning; for all of us and dreading what I knew we were going to become.

But, I did receive a gift from God that day, and have received another as well. My gift from God is my life, and all of yours. I will love and appreciate them fully. I love you all and I have you with me, always.
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