10 Years Ago Today–9/12 to 9/14

All the reminders yesterday of what happened on 9/11 2001 brought back so many memories of that horrible day. I am impressed with the beauty of the memorial at Ground Zero in NYC. I think it’s a fitting tribute to those who gave their lives that day. It bothers me, though, that there is an effort underway to stop calling the area “Ground Zero.” I don’t think anyone will ever let go of that name.

After 9/11, I was stranded in Chelmsford, Mass., outside of Boston. I’d flown there on 9/10/01 for a week of management meetings at my employer’s offices in Chelmsford. I was scheduled to fly home on Friday 9/14, but with all flights everywhere grounded for an undetermined amount of time, I had no idea when I’d get home.

Despite the stress and uncertainty of the time, our management meetings were held. What else could we do with a number of people on-site from all over the country? For most of us from across the country, we were distracted during the meetings by continually checking websites for updates on travel information in the hopes that we’d find a way home. All flights were cancelled, and trains were all full. I started toying with the idea of driving home. From Boston clear across the country to Portland, Oregon.

My manager, Neil, was appalled at the idea and thought it was completely unsafe to do alone. He vehemently tried to dissuade me. Nonetheless, I was determined to get home. And our company’s corporate offices issued a statement saying they’d pay for any reasonable travel expenses to help those of us who were stranded get home. I missed my family tremendously, and felt lonelier and more isolated than I’d ever felt in my life. Plus our 20th wedding anniversary was in a week, and I didn’t want to miss it.

By Friday 9/14, our meetings were coming to an end. There were rumors that flights might start up again by Sunday or maybe Monday. But I couldn’t envision hanging around for the weekend. So I made my decision. I was driving home, come hell or high water or concerned manager. I  had our support staff make arrangements for my car rental, and planned to leave around lunchtime. Once word got out that I was about to embark on my journey, email circulated around our Chelmsford offices to see if there was anyone else from the west coast who wanted to join me.

At literally the last minute (I was five minutes away from walking out the door), two people found me and said they wanted to head west with me. A woman named Susan and a man named Arpad. They were both physicists and I’d never met them before. Susan was from the Seattle area and Arpad was from somewhere near the Bay area.

Off we went, three strangers on the journey of a lifetime.

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