Monday, September 11, 2006

Memories of 9/11

I'm a biz-pig. I admit it. I'm not sure many people have heard or cared about the experience of the average corporate tool with regards to the the horrible events of 9/11. Sure, it has affected the experience of slogging through airports. But do I really feel safer because of it? No, because I never really felt that unsafe in the first place. I think we have substituted the aggravation of inconvenience for a feeling of safety. If it takes this long to get through security, they must be doing a better job keeping us safe. I disagree.

I was actually on the way to the airport when the first tower fell. I had planned to fly to Baltimore and take a train to Philadelphia for a meeting. That would have made for a helluva week if I had gotten on that plane, I imagine.

But when I heard that air travel had gotten totally FUBAR, I detoured and went in to the office instead. When I got there, the mood was extremely tense and twitchy. I was the only member of management in town that day, but I wasn't at a level where I could actually do anything. It's a family business and I'm in the family, so I think people were just looking for somebody to look to.

I found out within a few hours that someone I worked with through a trade association had a son in the top of Tower II. I had called her to ask a question about an upcoming meeting and noticed she sounded really uptight. In retrospect, I can't believe she could even breathe, much less answer my fool ass questions. I figured she was just upset like the rest of us magnified by the factor of actually being in NYC. She didn't really know for sure that she had lost her son for another week, but her dignity has always amazed me in the years since. I'm thinking about her today.

Back at the office, everybody was trying to personalize their experience. It seemed so foreign and impossible. At the same time it felt extremely remote and like it had happened right next door. People began to look for a way to connect. Unfortunately in this era of urban legends and internet hysteria, our employees began to connect by imagining how we might be affected. Before lunch, everyone was glued to the radio. But after lunch, they had a chance to talk to other people, watch tv and check the internet. That wasn't good.

Suddenly, we were under attack. "There's a bomber downtown at Legislative Plaza!" "They're gonna hit Oak RIdge and the radiation will fry us all!" "I gotta go pick my kid up at school! He goes to school with Vince Gill's daughter and they might be a target!" I tried to reason with my more strident employees.

"They're terrorists," I said. "The only way they win is if you allow them to terrorize you and you get terrified! Now let's get back to work and do our part to avoid a national paralysis." It sounded logical to me. No dice.

Finally, I resorted to the only thing that would really motivate them...bribery. I went to each person who I knew was spreading these spurious rumors and said, "I know you think that the industrial park we're in or Dodson Elementary School or Cool Springs Mall is in imminent danger of a terrorist attack. I can't tell you for sure that we're not. But here's the deal. If it does happen, I'll give you an extra year's pay. Call it a bet. Now please go back to work and stop frightening everybody!"

It worked.

That's called biz-pig therapy.


Anonymous Sista said...

My boss at the time was the most negative person around. Her comment was "We have a cross on our building. They'll come after us next!"

7:54 AM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

Back at the office, everybody was trying to personalize their experience.

Boy, ain't that the truth. I never heard so many people worry about 2nd cousins who took a vacation to New York City in August.

We had a licensor in Manhattan that only 2 people in the office ever spoke with. All of a sudden 45 different people were feeling the pain of poor Diane and the rest of her office.

There was a lot of "it's hurting me worse because I used to have an aunt in Brooklyn" stuff around our place that day.

Of course it didn't help that our company was run by a Lebanese man. A Christian Lebanese man, but nevertheless. Wow. Tensions were HIGH to say the least.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad got on a plane to NY as soon as they lifted the restriction and then he flew on to Greece. He'd planned a vacation for months and was NOT going to be God he wasn't! He said it was one of the best trips he'd ever taken because hardly anyone was traveling!

I always admired him for getting right back on that horse!


3:27 AM  
Anonymous Christopher said...

Yes, it's amazing how that day stays with you. Perhaps that how it should be. I live in NYC. It took me a good solid year to start to feel normal again after 9/11/2001. My experience is too long to post in a comment, but if you're interested, you can read about it here:

Memoirs: September 11, 2001

11:59 PM  

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