Sunday, September 11, 2011

911 PlusTen

For those loyal readers still remaining (thanks, Ari), you know that I seldom use this medium to share my thoughts or write about Twitter. Life changes, too many other commitments, not enough time nor interest. However, after reading a couple of poignant posts from David Armano, Where Were You?, and Adam Kmiec, September 11th, Ten Years Later, I thought it was time to share.

Ten years ago, I left Boston on a beautiful, sunny Tuesday for an early morning flight to the west coast, headed to an Abacus class in Seattle. But unlike the fateful American flight 11 or United 175 jets full of innocents, I was on a Delta flight with a connection in Cincinnati. In fact, I think our flight took off in between those two. At the time, little did I know that selecting Delta turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

When I made my reservations several weeks earlier, the travel agent had booked me on the American flight to LA. However, a few days after the booking, I decided to switch to the more expensive Delta flight for the chance of an elite upgrade (not) and usage of the Crown Room lounge. So you could say that vanity saved my life!

We landed as scheduled in Cincinnati, unlike many other flights that were diverted to adjacent airports. I turned on my cellphone to discover several voice
mails from friends and family who knew that I was traveling that day. I called my wife immediately and was grateful to hear her voice, knowing how close I came to missing that forever. The airport announced that all flights were currently grounded by the FAA. In the Crown Room, we all huddled around the TV and saw the carnage. I quickly found a hotel room on that crazy, chaotic morning. We now know that all airport traffic was shut down for several days. but at the time several times each day, I would check in with Delta to try to find a way home. The people in Cincinnati were very kind caring, and hospitable, but the sense of separation, loneliness, and fear of what's next was too great. I couldn't wait to get home and hug my wife and young children.

After 4 days, flights resumed. However, as the initiation point of the tragedy, Boston's airport was taking a more cautious approach to security and remained close. Thus, I flew home via Hartford. The Cincinnati airport was a mad house as you could imagine. Lines everywhere. Soldiers with machine guns patrolling every corner. It seemed as if martial law was in force. There was an interminable delay, but no one seemed to mind as we were all headed home.

As you can imagine, that flight to Hartford was pretty empty and most of us were afraid of what we would find when we arrived. I don't think we were allowed to get up throughout the flight, but then we all would have been too suspicious of anyone who did. Our small intrepid group of passengers rose and gave the flight crew a standing ovation and many hugs when we landed.

Arriving at the airport in Boston, I encountered a ghost town. The airport was still closed, the parking garages full of cars, but seldom a person seen. It was quite a surreal, eerie situation, almost Twilight Zone like.
Technology changes and especially social media have improved our ability to connect and keep in touch with loved ones and community. Yet, nothing will ever take the place of being in the same room, face to face.

I never made it to Seattle for my meeting, although I did end up moving here four years later. Like many people, this day always fills me with sadness, but also with pride for the rememberances of heroism, selflessness and valor from so many. However, for me, there will always be a sense of gratefulness that a last minute change removed me from being one of the innocent victims.