In honor of those who served. My 9/11 story.
I was working back East as a fancy-pants technology project manager. I had a client meeting in Jersey that day and my production people were to meet me there. So I hop-skippety across the Tappan Zee bridge and notice nothing atall out of the ordinary.
I get to the office and find a whole floor of people freaking out. A whole building full of people freaking out. Somehow everybody's boss wasn't there right then. So I switch into mode. At first I think there is a localized disater like the boiler blew up so I quickly try to grab the nearest incoherant slob and I can and ask them "what happened?"
Well, so I got the story. Plane #2 had hit and the fit is hitting the shan in Manhattan.
So I'm still in mode so I race up stairs (never use an elevator in an emergency) to my floor and there is this whole bunch of freaked out people and no bosses, not one on the scene.
Dig now I'm a consultant in this place but I'm in mode so I jump up on a desk and loudly announce "I want you all to quitely and calmly move to your cars, go home and be with your families and let's make sure if anybody needs a ride they get one".
And some little Mrs. Busybody said "by who's authority" and I said "mine, I am Connecticut EMT 91-00126 and I am evacuating this floor" which was the truth but I gotta admit, it was a gamble. But right then people needed to hear that and did as I said. Blessed little sheep.
Now at this point I'm still in mode. I'm trying to acess the level of threat. Having taken care of the people immediately around me, I find a few die-hards watching CNN on the monitors. The IT guys in this outfit.
God bless the geeks because to this point these guys just doubled up on security and they were watching for cyber-attacks and they were about as cool as cucumbers. Man this is why good geeks get paid money because these guys knew this is what they get paid for: maintain critical infrastructure and preserve data at all costs.
But we watched in horror as the first tower fell.
I was in particular horror. Allow me to explain.
From the first attack on the trade centers I realized how important a symbol the towers are and I realized it's only a matter of time.
I ran up to the roof of the building and saw it with my own eyes. The towers were still standing but a massive plume of smoke coming from one. OK, I figure, the locus of destruction is 20 miles from here. That did a lot for how I handled things from there.
I had hypothesized upon the ramifications of one of the towers falling. I figured in daytime it would take out pretty much all of lower Manhattan, say everything South of Houston. I had already predicted casualty numbers in the tens of thousands, easily enough to temporarily overwhelm the EMS and ER resources of the entire region.
And more particularly to my horror on that day, my production team was to be riding a subway. More particularly a PATH train. And they were right under it when it happened. I watched those towers come down on CNN and somehow I just knew. I just knew. I didn't even bother picking up the cell phone. The IT guys and me did a sweep of the floor, made sure everybody was out and safe and secured the floor.
Then I got on the phone to my ambulance corps and hospital to get ready for the tidal wave of casualties I was sure were to come and I got another shock.
The guy, one of the guys who trained me picked up the phone and said "get on the phone with everybody you know (in the corps) and tell them to stop calling" and I was like "why in the hell would I do that?" and he said "we are not getting any casualties, copy, we are not getting any casualties".
And if ever I felt my blood turn to ice, man it was then. Oh my God I thought, nobody is coming out alive. Oh my God.
Know something, I'm crying now that I write this but I didn't cry then, I was in mode. I had already been activated. That whole post-traummatic, hyper-vigillant thing kicked in. I either wanted to save and protect somebody or kick somebody else's ass bigtime. But they boys in security positions had Manhattan Island locked down like a drum because I was trying desperately to get down there in general and in particular, I WANTED TO FIND MY PEOPOLE. NOT JUST ANYBODY, BUT MY PEOPLE. THE PEOPLE WHO RELY ON ME. But this was not possible.
Want to know what the real kick in the ass was? That employer in Jersey? 3 days later they show up and want to know why the project isn't completed to phase III. I thought it was a perfectly rational explanation to say our production team and all the latest code just got turned into atomized particles of dust which now coats the entire South of Manhattan.
Know what these turkeys said to me? "That's not our problem". That's what they said. May God stike me dead if I report this falsely because all I could think to say was "come again?"
No. Nobody can be that insensitive. My ears did not just hear that. I said "come again" and I was praying that my ears were playing tricks of me, please say anything but what I think you just said.
That's not our problem.
For a second there I really had to restrain myself because I felt hot blood flash and I thought how nice their scalps would look tied to my lodge poles and how much honor I could gain by killing them and pulling their teeth to make a fine, spitting necklace. For I have never in my life countenanced such unfeeling brutes of human beings such as these.
I did not terminate my employment (or employers) on the spot, I tried to put together everything we had on a CDROM and deliver it to them and with that I kissed them off and blessed them on. I had bigger fish to fry.
Manhattan was in total shock and mourning. But it produced a wonderful counter-effect in the hard hearts of New Yorkers because for just a few days, just a few wonderful days, everybody was caring after one another. The stories are endless about people who had lived in the same building for years but never met, but for this time, everybody was like "how are you, are you OK?? Can I help you?"
So. I get this bright idea. My skills as a mercenary and as a medic have been un-neccessary so far but I have another tool in my box, I used to be a puppeteer and a stilt walker and gee, don't I still have my Uncle Sam outfit?
I shit you not, this must have been just before the whole YouTube thing took off, I know there is video of me doing this but the people of NYC got visited by a 14 foot tall Uncle Sam and man, the reaction was like I was Jesus. From the moment I mounted the stilts it was like people came pouring out of every doorway, people in every car honked their horn and this totally wild ass procession evolved around me and so many people massed that I ended up having to try to stay still which is no mean trick on traditional stilts.
And suddenly, by some magic of love and power that I know not the name of, I became Uncle Sam and I bellowed at my full voice "I came to see how my people are doing" and the crowd went wild and I shouted "I come here to be with my children" and they went banannas. Then I shouted "I love New York" and man, I want to tell you that I'd swear there was one second where there was not a foot, not a single sneaker on the pavement. They jumped, they surged. Did you ever see a crowd "surge"? And they freaking were loving on one another like...like the most odd hippies or the most flagrant fags.
I didn't cry then but I am crying now not for sorrow but because I am not sure I have ever before or every will again see something so beautiful as all people loving and hugging one another on the streets of NYC.
From my perspective it was like the whole world suddenly switched to my channel and everybody took care of everybody and the love resounded from every floor and the truth was welcome at every door. It was heaven on Earth, albeit brought about by tragic circumstances. To me it describes life not quite as it should be but what is POSSIBLE.
WE ARE NOT THAT BAD. MOST PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD. THEY JUST NEVER GET THE CHANCE TO SHOW IT.
IN HONOR: NYPD, NYFD, NYEMS. I am sorry I was not with you. But we go on to serve.