Originally posted on my old website on 5/24/2002 at 11:05:14 PM
On 9-11-1, just before 9:00, I was sitting in my office, just like any other morning trying to read the morning news. MSNBC, Fox News, Drudge Report, nothing came up. “Contacting remote host” endlessly. I thought there was a network problem in my building so I went about what work I could internally in the building.
A few minutes later a friend of mine AIMed me telling me that a plane had accidentally run into the Empire State building. And that started 9-11 for me. I was lucky enough to make a few calls around before phone lines became saturated and I was able to get a good website that somehow avoided the congestion of the information rush.
The St. Petersburg Times website was still fast enough to reach and that’s when I found out it was actually the World Trade Center that was under attack. I saw the famous first picture of fire and smoke bellowing out of Tower 2. By that time calls were coming into others in our office through what cell capacity was left, people were heading to the conference rooms to turn on the TVs to find out what was going on. My co-workers and I were standing around talking about it and one of the girls in the office, famous for “fibbing” came by and told us someone has set off a bomb at the Pentagon as well. We told her this was nothing to be joking about. But as we all now know, that was a plane as well. A friend and I decided to wander out into the city and see what the buzz was on the street.
Luckily I had become a Ham Radio operator in June of last year and had my handheld 2-way radio with me (Mostly to listen to the trains on my commute). Most of the police frequencies were jammed with activity, but I was able to get some useful information on how to get out of the city, but I didn’t drive in, and the trains were down for most of the morning and into the afternoon. So we walked around, running into some co-workers from time to time on the street, discussing theories of what was going on, quite surreal it was standing on the Mall in DC with police cruisers flying down through the grass, sirens blaring, huge smoke clouds rising from the Pentagon. It almost reminded me of the sneak attack by the Russians in the movie Red Dawn while the kids where all in class.
We walked around the mall and near the White House. I was able to get traffic reports and news of the events to friends who were commuting in that morning via my handheld radio. Some of them had no knowledge of the events going on. My wife was on the way to work when she felt the impact of either the plane hitting the Pentagon or the gas main that blew up a little later. I heard an explosion in DC, but could not tell the direction due to echo off the buildings. I was able to phone-patch on my handheld to my hometown in Virginia and notify my immediate family in the area that I was ok and to call whomever else they could for me since they still had reliable phones.
Since we couldn’t get out of the city via mass transit, my co-worker Scott suggested we leave the city and walk to his apartment in Crystal City, by then most people in our building had left for home a couple hours before. So we headed out into the mess at around 1 p.m. The streets were virtual parking lots of hot vehicles. You could see the heat rippling off them. I’m glad now I did not drive in. We walked towards the 14th St. Bridge, a few other people had the same idea as us to walk, and a few rode their bikes. I am not in the worst physical shape, but that walk took a lot out of me. There was really nowhere open in DC to get drinks. We walked past the burning Pentagon, the smell of the smoke strong even from that distance and took the Pentagon ramp on the south-bound side down and went left under a 395 overpass into the backside of Crystal City, not far from the railroad tracks. Crystal City was a bit better traffic-wise, but I knew there was no way I was going to get a ride out of the city any time soon so we grabbed some snacks at the corner store, and went up to watch it all on TV.
The channels were saturated with coverage. I was in awe. I had heard that one of the buildings had collapsed, but by the time I was able to get to a TV, both had collapsed. I was mentally numb; the only thought was “All those people”… The early estimates were that anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 people were in the building when it collapsed. Luckily, but still unfortunate, there were only approximately 3000. The thought of all those people perishing in an instant was, as I said before, mind-numbing. I watched the different channels, absorbed the impacts and collapses many times over. It still gives me the chills watching it. The 9-11 program that Nextel sponsored is even more chilling, hearing the falling bodies hit the structures outside. The massive concussion that a human body creates echoed through the lobby and shocked the firefighters, they didn’t even realize what it was until someone saw the remains. People so desperate to get out of the building, that they thought jumping was a better option than staying there, hoping for rescue, even though the buildings still stood at the time.
Within no time, we knew the identities of the bastards that caused this madness and when it comes to punishing the people behind this atrocity, they should be dealt with in the harshest manner possible. They should be hunted down and destroyed. They have no right to live when it comes to the premeditated murder of thousands with the intent of killing many more. Innocent people will die on the path of vengeance, but that is the sad inevitable part of war. Innocent people die. The US admitted that before we went in. But, if you refuse to fight because of the chance of innocents being killed then the terrorists have won. The only choice is to fight, and do your best to minimize collateral damages. America will not lose this battle. The full power of current and future technology will hammer the enemy until there is nothing left to salvage.
The Japanese awoke the Sleeping Giant in ’41 and look at how our military has advanced since then. Al-Qaeda hit us in ’01 and we will unwillingly advance to new, unseen levels. The weapons systems that contractors have in development are amazing, Machine guns that shoot up to 1,000,000 rounds per minute, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV) that carries 14000 40mm grenades and strikes with accuracy better that the smart bombs we have now, super armored ballistic suits for the military that is equipped with Infrared, thermal, and computerized terrain imagers that are connected via GPS to military satellites, and eventually the ability to give the soldier amazing strength and the ability to jump over 10-15 feet high. Rather amazing stuff and that is only the things we have been told about. There are supposedly backpack laser weapons in our arsenal that can cut through an enemy tank.
The future may look grave to some, but if we fight this war carefully and do our best to align ourselves politically with the civilians of these “rogue” states, I think we really have a chance of redeeming ourselves in the eyes of the world.
Let’s hope for a resolution to these issues soon.