September 13, 2009

My September 11 Story

Not sure I've ever written this one down; I was not blogging at the time and my story is not all that interesting. But might as well spend a few minutes in between the purging, sorting, and tossing.

The week of Sept 11, 2001, I was headed out to Chicago for the annual power quality conference. Not sure if I flew that morning (if I did, it was a dawn Southwest hop into Midway) or the night before. But 8:00 am chicago time found me parked outside an office supply store waiting for them to open so I could get a cell phone charger. I was listening to public radio when I first got word; quickly buzzed over to AM. Then I called my friend Robert (balloon and private pilot) to tell him to turn on CNN because "some moron flew his cessna into the world trade center" - which is how it seemed to be reported, initially.

Robert, taking a look at the news, told me "that's a lot bigger than a cessna" and while we were on the phone, the 2nd plane hit the other tower. He got off the phone to call his brother in the city, and I headed to the conference, listening to the radio.

Needless to say there was not much of a conference. We hung out that morning kind of making a show of it but were drawn to the few televisions in the hall - by mid morning I packed it up and went to the hotel to keep vigil. For the rest of the week I holed up in the hotel, got online, and hung out a friendly gay bar near the conference center - sitting at the bar, siping a drink, watching the news, chatting with the other few folks just looking to be with others. I remember a flame war erupting in one group I was moderating (over something silly; people were on edge).

I recall being kind of broke at the time so as the reality of things hit and air travel was shut down, I started to fret about paying for the hotel for an extended period. About the 4th day, I decided to drive back - not even bothering to call my rental car company (better to ask forgiveness, than seek permission) and I made the long drive back from Chicago to Connecticut. Think I did an overnight in a small hotel in north central PA; taking a northerly route to avoid NYC.

I never did get billed for the rental car - I think the folks in Chicago handed me the wrong paperwork so I had a car and someone else's contract, and when I got to the outlet at the CT airport, there were scores of people lined up to check in cars, so I just left the keys and contract and figured they'd sort it out. I suspect they just gave up on a lot of stuff that week....

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