So, another 9/11 anniversary has come to a close, and many stories were told and re-shared. For me, the hold that this particular event has on me stretches to September 17th as well.
For some background, I had just started work at a new job that August, and the office was down at Chase Manhattan Plaza, not far from the World Trade Center. After the South Tower fell and I was able to make my way home, I found that cell phones and landlines were all still compromised since that morning — constant busy signals. For some reason, I was able to connect to AOL on my Blueberry iMac (I was a different computer user then). Able to get online, I was able to get some emails and messages out, and amazingly a friend was able to somehow get through to me on the phone from Worcester, MA, to get word to my family who weren’t online. But I hadn’t heard from my co-workers. I hadn’t heard from anyone from work at all, and that was worrying — until that afternoon.
I finally received an email from my boss. A short message pretty much just asking:
How much work can you do from home?
I deleted the message almost immediately. I deleted it because if I had somehow acknowledged its existence by it being in my inbox, I felt that I would have to physically assault my employer when I next saw him. And after a couple of days, it turned out I was being called in as part of the “essential” staff that had to return on Monday, 9/17, to work with the emergency recovery for the business.
So, I ended up heading back to work the next Monday (after taking two days away from the city to see friends and family in New Jersey). We had been smelling the smoke from the in my neighborhood from Ground Zero during the week anyway, but after getting off the Wall Street subway stop and getting through the security cordon, the stench was unsurprisingly more substantial. I walked through crowds of other workers, soldiers, first responders and official government types until I was able to get into my building which had been scoured pretty clean despite some cracks in some marble work and that prevailing odor of burning concrete and steel. The entire building’s vents were still pumping that scent as I made my way up to the office where I found out our fiber optic telecom systems were down as the collapse of the towers had taken out the major junction box in the area. The only outside connection the office had came on two landline connections that apparently worked on legacy copper wiring, and they were constantly in use by those more “important” than myself.
I finally saw my boss, who had yet to ask me about if anyone I knew had been in the towers, or just about my general well-being. Instead, we went right into the work situation of having no access to our servers. I had to try in vain to see if I could bring up any work on our local hard drives at all to no avail, and eventually, toward the end of the day, I was told to go with two other employees to the South Street Seaport ferry to get over to the emergency recovery tech center in Jersey City to see if we could get some kind of access to those oh-so-precious marketing documents. I already wasn’t feeling too charitable to my boss at this point, but what could I do. I made my way with two colleagues through a surreal mass of blue-uniformed police officers at a break area and waited on the long lines for the boat ride over to Jersey. The ferry ride gave us a haunting view from the harbor of Lower Manhattan bathed in the sunset with heavy smoke clouds still rising from behind the glass towers still standing.
Anyway, as I pretty much knew, the trip was a waste of time. The harried network folks were doing their best to get all the various departments access to their servers. Ours were apparently still a long ways off from having the backups ready for us. At that point I just gave up. I called my mom and dad to see if I could just spend the night at their place and try and forget that I was being pushed around like deck furniture on the least important sinking ship while actually important people were still doing the work of recovery and rescue in a disaster area. There was no reason for me to be there at the time, and while I was there, it might have been nice to have been treated with a little human decency. My perception of who, or what, I was working for was irreparably damaged. I don’t usually hold grudges, but that one is particularly special.
Also, I still have that Blueberry iMac in storage, oddly enough.