Watching all the tributes and remembrances of that horrible day, I feel compelled to record my experiences. No drama or acts of heroism here, just one of the most memorable times of my life.
My wife and I had moved to the Boston area just over a year earlier and visited New York often to visit my family. The week before 9/11, which was a Tuesday, we had a couple of good friends from Minnesota visit us. On Saturday, we drove down to New York and toured around, including the World Trade Center. It wasn't the first time I had been to the observation floor, but it was a first for my wife and our friends. It was a beautiful late summer day and the sights were awesome.
I was working for a small software company (Smart Storage) which had been recently acquired by another (OTG Software), and on Sunday evening I flew down to Maryland for meetings at their office in Gaithersburg. On Tuesday morning I checked out of my hotel early for a meeting at 8:00 with a partner near Dulles Airport. When I left the meeting, heading back to the office, I heard the news of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. I was transfixed by the news and totally missed the exit to I-495 N. By the time I realized it, the news of a plane crashing into the Pentagon hit. I saw smoke ahead of me and heard a lot of sirens, so I turned around and made my way back to Gaithersburg.
I have to say that I was totally shocked by the atmosphere in the office. Everyone was going about their business, not at all concerned that the country was under attack. It did fit the culture of this company, though. Or maybe I was more sensitive because I grew up in NYC and had served 6 years in the military.
Anyway, my flight home had obviously been cancelled, and I didn't have a hotel room, so I decided to drive my rental car back to Massachusetts. It was just before dusk when I reached the stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike opposite lower Manhattan. Two towers of smoke, rising up and blowing south. I will never forget that sight. There were a lot of people on the side of the road, taking pictures and videos, but I didn't stop (I didn't have a camera). Sorry, Donald, I didn't see anyone cheering.
My usual route, over the George Washington Bridge, was closed, as were all routes into Manhattan, so I kept going north to the Tappan Zee Bridge. At every toll booth, cars were waved through, and I made it home around midnight.
In my office the next morning, I received an email from the company's travel agent asking if I needed help - they thought I was stranded in Maryland. I replied that I made it home with the rental car, and thanked them to checking. I then received an email from the person who handled expense reports, demanding "who the hell gave you authorization to drive a rental car one way". Never mind that Hertz waived the charges and I saved the company hundreds in extra hotel, car and meal expenses. Unbelievable.
That's my story. I feel better for telling it, and now I'm ready for some football. Go Patriots!!
Rich Vining is a Sr. Product Marketing Manager for Data Protection at Hitachi Data Systems and has been publishing his thoughts on data storage and data management since the mid-1990s. The contents of this blog are his own.