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Where I Was on 9/11…

11-Sep-07 08:05 am EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

It was an average morning as I began work at my software job – at Canada’s largest software company – Cognos Inc., in Ottawa, ON (Canada).  It was a time of change for the company; a new 17-floor expansion to it’s main campus on Riverside Dr. toward the south end of the city still had that "newly-constructed smell" that accompanies the gentle release of mild toxins with freshly-laid carpet.  The new building also featured a new cafeteria with a huge big-screen TV along the west wall, which was turned onto the news channel.  As I went downstairs to get my 2nd cup of morning coffee, a small crowd had gathered around the screen to witness an evolving horror: an apparent plane crash into one of the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

The commentators were abuzz speculating about whether this was an accident or the result of a hijacking.  And I had to do a double-take as I watched the coverage….as a second plane crashed into the other of the two towers.  Stunned shock followed for nearly 30 seconds as all anyone could do is stare at the spectacle, and the quickly emerging realization this was a very-well organized attack.

News was spotty, and, cynically, I mistakenly concluded that it was pointless to let this interrupt my day completely as the second plane hitting the towers likely marked the end of the incident.  But it didn’t, of course.  Shortly after arriving back upstairs, news hit the floor that The Pentagon had been hit as well.  News of a fourth airline crashing would reach us by the end of the day, although by then there’d been too many distractions to get much work done and everyone went home with an acute sense that we’d all just seen history unfold.

I think back on that historic day with the same foggy recall that accompanies all the other historic days that have preceded and followed; I know where I was, and who I was with – although there’s little doubt that day six years ago was one of the more pivotal days in my life.  9/11 marked the end of a chapter in my life; I’d soon after this leave Cognos behind, encounter a series of medical problems (mostly solved now) and hit a "bump" in my career that took some work to get over.

Although I doubt we’ll see any more planes hitting buildings today, it almost feels like we’re overdue for another "historic" event.  Not that I’m in any hurry for one.  It almost seemed impossible we’d see another similar sequence of events in the first years after the World Trade Center attacks, but now that more than 5 years have passed…I’m starting to worry about the fact bin Laden has yet to be found, and the likelihood he’ll eventually figure out a way to outsmart all the extra measures that have been undertaken since 9/11.  And if not bin Laden himself, thanks to the Americans, there’s a huge, unseen army of disciples organized into sleeper-cells all over the world ready to try and clear the bar of terror he raised.

The effort to erode civil liberties seems to have reached a plateau if not started to crumble somewhat.  It remains my view there are way too many tax dollars being wasted on hiring police who aren’t willing or, thanks to unions, able to do the fundamental work required to make our cities safer.  But no politician gets elected saying he wants to downsize the police force.  And it’s too hard to get a passport, not that it should be necessary for Canadians to enter the United States – another result of 9/11.  Airports still aren’t secure, despite millions being misspent on increasing security there.  That needs to be fixed too.

Hopefully the emergency response systems and procedures actually work the next time there’s an attack of similar scale on the United States.  And hopefully, too, there’s a President in-office who actually does more than just sit there for seven minutes, stunned, before acting like he is the President.

I hope that somehow, somewhere there are lessons learned from that day six years ago – because it doesn’t seem obvious that we’re really there yet where our safety and the security of our society is concerned.

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Terry Glavin

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