9/11 memorium

Not an HPC topic, but one that all Americans can reflect upon … their thoughts, their experiences … and to resolve not to let this happen ever again, in any form.

Never again.

I had left SGI, and was working for a smaller engineering software company. I had lined up a bunch of interviews for an open position we had. My buddy Al was flying out from NY with his team to visit someone I know in Ann Arbor, and I was going to try to grab them for lunch or dinner.

I was getting dressed for work, my (at the time) 21 month old daughter was playing around the house. My mother-in-law had called to tell us that something had happened to the WTC. I turned on the coverage and watched. This was at 8:59am or so. Speculation was a plane hit the tower.

I debug stuff. I look around for contributing factors, and I eleminate things. Foggy day? No, very clear. Failure in control system? Possible.

Intentional? Hell no. Who could be so insane to do such an incredibly stupid thing?

That was my world view at 9:03am

Then I saw the second plane hit. On live TV.

I realized I just watched 200 or so people die.

My naive world view ended about 10 seconds after that impact.

The other problem I have is that I am an ex-physics type. I know what happens when you damage something enough that is load bearing to a significant degree. Its stops bearing that load.

If you want to blow up a hypothetical dam, you don’t bring enough explosive to blow it up. You create a crack in a load bearing portion, and then let gravity and time do their work. Or you create and extend the crack, and destroy the load bearing aspect of this dam. Gravity eventually, but always, wins.

At 9:06 I was wondering how long they would stand. I was hoping that the 10-20 thousand people there could be evacuated in time. I didn’t know what the failure mode would look like, but I thought it would fail.

Right around this time, I realized Al was on a plane out of New York, to visit.

I left for work at 9:30am thinking anything in the sky is dangerous. I saw a few planes making rushed landings at DTW (we are on the approach path), and lots of police out on the roadway.

I got to work and decided to work from home, so I picked up my laptop, and found out while packing up that the first tower fell.

Drove home really fast, while hearing reports on the radio of multiple simultaneous hijackings, which recalled images from the past, when the PLO and other terrorist groups did this.

I tried reaching Terry, Al’s wife, to let her know I’ve not heard anything yet from him, they were to have landed at DTW at around 10am or so. Couldn’t get through. Tried Al’s cell phone. Left a message. Al and I go back to 1984 or so, both sophmores as undergrads at Stony Brook. We followed somewhat different paths through school, grad school, and then he did a postdoc, and I chose to leave ABD and finish up while working full time.

Al’s an incredibly bright guy, he can take care of himself. I’m concerned given what I’ve been speculating. I don’t know his flight number, or which airline.

He and his team eventually did arrive. They rented a car and drove back to NY.

But its 10:30am, information is slowly filtering in, and we’ve heard that there are multiple hijackings in progress. We know how they will end.

We heard the Pentagon was hit.

For those who don’t know the book, Tom Clancy wrote something called “Executive Orders” which features his canonical hero, Jack Ryan, becoming president, after a terrorist flew a plane into the US capital building during the state of the union.

I had a sense of deja vu. Life emulating portions of Mr. Clancy’s book.

9 years later this day and time bring strong memories and deeper contemplation.

We know who did this. We know they have been trying, again and again. They may eventually succeed. Its our job to stop them, to deny them any success, to disable their fellow travelers from aiding and abetting them.

They almost succeeded a number of times, one of the most recent was the Christmas day underware bomber. On that plane was my business partner, about 10 rows back from the self-immolating idiot.

We know who they are. We know, to a degree what they want to achieve.

And we will not forget.

Feel free to post your memories of that date and time.

[update] Please be civil in any responses. I deleted one idiotic response and banned that user.

[update 2] Here is a video. Its hard to watch.

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