Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ROW80 – POST 60 - ELEVEN YEARS AND A DAY...


When I first started this, I wasn’t sure I would post it, it seemed too personal and maybe banal, but it is heartfelt and events of this scope can make us remember again why we cherish life, love and each other, even after all these years. Also, it had nothing to do with homelessness. Well, maybe figuratively; if you think about it long enough, maybe we are all rootless. I still feel the dystonia of that event and as if I’ve lost the anchor as a citizen to this country. Maybe with all the events from September 11, 2001 until now, I just feel betrayed.

In a way, this is a sort of re-post. I’ve left some of the original material from last year’s post, “Untitled,” including some of the events that occurred on September 11,2001, but have included some new; too much has happened since then, in my life and in the world around us. My writing style has changed somewhat as well, which is to be expected, I guess.

“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 just north of Boston, Massachusetts. I remember the Towers; clear, lambent and vivid still. They 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. I was flying home to Verizon to the Tech Data Center where I was based.

“The following Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was on driving to our Tech Data Center to teach a teleconference via Communications Bridge. You know, the “conference” call where twenty-five people all get on a phone call and holler at one another for four-hour stints at once to “learn” the newest, hottest application 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.

“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. Then, the radio feed was lost. I knew we were under attack.

“My speed went from 30 to 90 in less than two minutes. I ran red lights. There were sirens, but I 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.

For us to go from that time to this and look back is probably no more compelling than looking back at any great national tragedy. There are still things that beg the question “why?” Since then and now, our new marches into Folly, Iraq, and Afghanistan, that Graveyard of Empires and countless other Geo-political messes, we’ve had the so-called small disasters, the Aurora shootings, American Nazis killing Sikhs and countless other hatreds. The casual and not so casual cruelties, the fanatical hatred, vitriol, spite and venom that we spew and use to cause destruction just baffles me. I can think of no reason to justify any of this. Not political ideology, religion, patrimony; none of it is justified.

This is one of those days when I feel unable to state or sum up with any clarity how it can be overcome. The only thing I can do, as my own small confuse-a-what self, is to do what I’ve been doing. Go on my way. Doing what I do. Sow my confusion, along with my bit of hope, love, inspiration, caring and laughter.



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