My memory isn’t what it used to be but there are a few experiences in the past which remain clear in my mind. The first time I met the person who would eventually become my wife. The birth of my daughter. The first time I saw VMware ESXi at a Minneapolis VMUG meeting. September 10th, 2001 and of course what followed the next morning. A lot of people have a 9/11 story. I have mine. Tomorrow being the 10 year anniversary, I’ll share it here as requested.
In 2001 I worked as a Systems Engineer for a large bank based out of Minneapolis, MN. One of our datacenters was located in Columbia, MD which is situated between Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C. We were re-IP’ing the datacenter the weekend before 9/11 so I had spent the prior week on site making the final preparations for the long weekend ahead which I would also be involved in.
As I recall, it was a pretty long weekend working around the clock. Par for the course when we had to deal with the finicky attitude of Microsoft SQL Server clusters. We got through it and Monday morning arrived. I would usually stick around through mid day Monday for this type of activity to make sure we were out of the woods, then fly out in the afternoon or early evening. There were no issues to speak of but I hung out with my Maryland co-workers until the last possible minute I had to leave for the airport. This was my normal routine. At this point in time there was no reason to arrive at the airport two hours early. There weren’t security checkpoints & the associated lines to deal with. However, I had cut it way too close this time and was going to miss my flight. I didn’t know it at the time but arriving late and missing my flight would allow me a brush with fame opportunity.
At this time it’s probably 5:30pm EDT. I worked with the ticketing agent to find a later flight out. Fortunately there was a later flight, I believe it was the last out of BWI. I checked my bag and made my way to the gate for the long wait. The portion of the airport where my gate existed was fairly empty. I was doing the long walk thing to one of the last gates. As I’m walking, a young guy who had gotten off a plane is walking towards me from the opposite direction. From a distance he’s tall and has a baseball cap on. As we passed each other, I got a closer look. One thought immediately entered my mind as he was walking away “He looks like Travis Pastrana (a pro motocross Suzuki rider).” The DUH moment followed “Travis and his parents live in Maryland.” When you eat, sleep, and breathe motocross, you follow motocross and pro riders closely. You know these things. I spun around and called out his first name “Travis!” from 20 feet away. We talked for about a minute. He was a nice guy and autographed a full spread poster of him performing a lazy boy contained in a motocross magazine I happened to be carrying in my laptop bag. Then we went on our respective ways. I called my wife (girlfriend at the time) and told her she’d never guess who I just met. I spent the rest of the evening smiling. I would always remember that particular day (but not necessarily the date September 10th itself), as one of the best days in my life. The following day would be one of the worst.
Tuesday morning I woke up and drove to work in downtown Minneapolis. As I waited at the intersection of 11 Street to turn right onto Hennepin Avenue, the frantic reports started coming in over the radio. For me, that’s where I was when 9/11 happened – at that intersection making a right turn, trying not to believe what I’m hearing on the radio. The details of that event are known by all and don’t need repeating here. I had a difficult time grasping what had happened, how they could have happened. I thought about how close I had been to one of the sites the night before.
The following weekend I loaded up the truck to race at Mazeppa. There was such a poor turnout due to the week’s events that the races were cancelled and for those that stuck around, we just practiced the entire day. A small and inconsequential example of how the events 9/11 would impact the future. By the grace of God, I didn’t lose any of my own loved ones, friends, or co-workers but when I see the faces of the innocent people who lost their lives, I can’t help but feel a connection to each of them. I’ve watched interviews of so many who suffered the loss of family members and I absolutely cannot comprehend how they dealt with it. I pray that those who passed on and their family members who remain receive love and comfort from God. It will be an emotional morning at church tomorrow as we join together in a special service of remembrance.
My daughter started kindergarten last week. I also have a three year old boy. In time they will learn about 9/11 and will inevitably talk about it and/or ask my wife and I questions about it. I hope that it is the type of event they will only have to learn about through history books. Tomorrow I’ll pray for peace and hope that my children and my children’s children can grow up in a better world.
On a creepy side note, for the first part of my tenure at the bank, each time I traveled to the Columbia site, a national level tragedy occurred:
- Columbine High School tragedy – 4/20/99
- 9/11 tragedy – 9/11/01
- Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy – 2/1/03
I no longer work for the bank and as such, no longer travel to this site.