I am certain that this is only one of millions of people putting remembrances out today of that horrible morning ten years ago. But it is, I suppose, my generation's December 07th or November 22nd. Everybody of earlier generation could remember exactly where they were that morning in December when they heard that Pearle Harbor had been bombed, or on that morning in November when they learned of the assassination of President Kennedy, the memories of that day that the towers fell is a day that time will never dull.
On September 11, 2001 I was the team lead of the BIAS Customer Support team at Columbine JDS and as was my habit in those days, I had driven into town early to make it onto the floor not long after opening. It was my practice to get in early, make coffee, chat with the early person on the floor, and then check-out the activity reports from the mainframe center in Memphis before getting down to work for the day.
I wish I could tell you that I remember the sunrise, or something beautiful about that day, but the first thing about that day that was even memorable was when one of my colleagues who had been listening to the radio while working on projects outside of the call center came up to me and asked if I had heard the news.
I was in a rush to get a report out and pretty-much dismissed the news as a horrible accident. Over the next ten minutes, the news of the "accident" had spread and at least half of the support staff had come by my desk to ask if I had heard the news. Frankly, all the interruptions to hear the news about Tower One was keeping me from getting work done. When, just after seven someone came up to me and told me about the plane hitting Tower Two, I was certain he had heard the news wrong. I said something like "It was tower one that got hit." And he corrected me that it was both towers now.
That was the moment that I knew there was something going on. My skin still crawls thinking about it. From my office you could see the canopies of Denver International Airport and occasionally, on a clear day, you could see the planes taking off and landing in the distance. So, when I heard of the plane crash in Pennsylvania, I remember turning and looking toward the airport.
About that time, my boss called me to her office. The news was all over the building and things were getting serious. Everyone on the management team had started scouring the news on the local radio and television stations; we were trying to understand what was going on. That was when we learned about the shutdown of the aviation system. The meeting was called because we had team members travelling on trips. All the management team was gathered in meetings taking stock of the situation when the fire alarms in our building went off.
Being a Fire Warden for my floor, I sprang to action. I asked everyone in the meeting room to please evacuate – we would gather at the meeting point in the parking lot across the street to discuss what to do next. I then ran to my office to grab my flashlight and emergency manual, did an office search of my sector, and went to the evacuation point. The announcement came over the tannoy that the building management had received a credible bomb threat and the building was being evacuated. So down the 41 flights of stairs we went.
We were out in the parking area for almost an hour before the word came that the building was clear. We all made our way back into the building and were meeting to make arrangements to get help to the travelers we had on the road when the second bomb threat came.
Upper management made the snap decision to close down the office for the day. We told the staff to go home. We staggered departures every fifteen minutes over the next hour and a half to help spread the load on the roads out of town (we were not the only office closing) and activated the emergency phone tree. Being the lead, it was my job to carry the water – I had to serve as the point of contact for my team and to get all the calls from the night service.
The staff at the night service, when I called to inform them that we were closing the office, were possibly the only people in the world who didn't know about the attacks. I had to argue with them about why we were closing the office early when the third bomb threat came over the tannoy.
I was one of the last people to leave the office that day. I remember getting home and turning the television on, with the computer, the television, and the phone all linking me to what was going on, it was days before things started getting back to normal.
It is amazing what one remembers when one starts thinking back. We had feared that there would be tons of calls, but our clients, television stations, were all too busy worrying how to cover wall-to-wall news for the event to have the time to call us. It wasn't until two days later when we started getting requests for a way to cancel huge swathes of spots that we started hearing from the clients again. (No commercials aired for nearly two days and our system was never designed to accommodate the loss of all the spots scheduled for a whole day.)
Personally, I knew a couple people who worked in the Pentagon that day, and a discussion group online to which I belonged informed me that they were safe and all was well with them. But my heart goes out to everyone affected by the horrible acts of that day. I, for one, will not be watching television today, the memory of that day is still too fresh and, personally, I don't need the television coverage to remind me of that day.
Wherever you are today, I hope you will take a moment to remember September 11, 2001 – and to those of you directly affected, I wish you peace and consolation.
Don Bergquist – September 11, 2011 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA