Tag Archives: Chelmsford

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.


10 Years Ago Today–9/11

Like yesterday, today is another gorgeous, unseasonably hot day. I woke up in time to watch a bit of the 9/11 tributes on TV. They bring memories of that day flooding back, as if they were yesterday.

Waking up in my hotel room in Chelmsford, Massachusetts on 9/11 2001, I decided to linger a bit in my room before heading into the office. The first morning after a west-coast-to-east-coast jaunt can be a bit draining. I took my time waking up, and finally decided to get up about 7 am. I like watching the morning news while I’m getting ready, so I had the TV on in the background as I enjoyed breakfast in my room, got caught up on email, and eventually got dressed. Looking out the window, I could see it was a beautiful sunny day. I was just starting to think about heading into the office around 8:30. If I left at 8:50, I’d be in the office by 9 am.

As I collected the things I’d need for the day–laptop, papers, purse, and cell phone–I kept one eye on the TV. Suddenly the Today Show cut into the usual fashion-travel-weather reporting of the last part of their show with stunning footage of one of the World Trade Center buildings severely damaged and burning. It was 8:50 am, just minutes after the first plane crashed into 1 WTC. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were reporting, stunned, that no one knew for sure what happened, but there was speculation that a plane had crashed into the building.

I put my things down on the bed, and decided to call my husband Bill, in Hillsboro, OR. An early riser, he was most likely up and getting ready for his work day. It was 5:50 am his time and I thought he’d want to see the footage before he left for the day.

We chatted for a while, speculating on the cause of the crash and talking about what we each had planned for the day. We each kept one eye on the TV, watching the building burn and waiting for more information. As we watched, a second plane crashed into 2 WTC. At that moment, we both new something frightening and evil was happening to our country. And we were separated by a continent.

There wasn’t much we could do, so we got off the phone and headed off our two different directions for the day. Before I left for the office, I called my parents in Portland, Oregon, to tell them to turn their TV on. And I called the office to tell them too, not knowing if they’d heard or not.

As I drove on the freeway into the office, already people had put up American flags on several of the overpasses. It was unbelievably moving to see this level of patriotism so quickly, and it gave me a bit of a sense of security.

By the time I reached the office, my colleagues were telling me that there were reports that a third plane had crashed into the Pentagon, and one of the WTC towers had just collapsed. I don’t know which was more stunning. Certainly knowing that the Pentagon had been hit drove home the seriousness of our then-unknown attackers.

A bit later we began hearing rumors of another plane crash somewhere in Pennsylvania. At that point, all anyone could think was, “When will it stop?”

For the most part that day, people made small talk in the office. There was a TV in the cafeteria, and it was on for most of the day. You could hear a pin drop in the cafeteria as people watched. No one said a word. Many of the people in the Chelmsford office had friends or family members who worked in the WTC. And some of them had family members where first responders. I can’t begin to imagine the fear and desperation they must have felt as they waited for news.

Any meetings we had scheduled for the day were cancelled. Along with all flights, anywhere in the U.S. Those of us from out-of-state began to wonder when–and how–we’d get home.

At the end of the day, I returned to my hotel room. My colleague, Mark, invited me to his home for dinner. But alas, I was too drained and felt I wanted some down time to make some calls home, unwind, and just chill for the evening. This seemed to be what I needed for a while, but as the evening turned into night, the reality of being 3,000 miles away from my family with no easy back began to set in. I don’t think I slept much that night. I don’t think most of America did.

10 Years Ago Today–9/10

Today is a beautiful sunny day in Hillsboro, Oregon, just west of Portland. I started the day watching my great-niece place soccer at the school across the street. Then I headed over to Hillsboro Stadium to watch my 11-year old grandson Andrew play football in what felt like scorching heat. My 4-year old granddaughter Hailey would be coming over later to spend the late afternoon and evening with us. A lovely, enjoyable late summer day.

It’s hard to believe that ten years ago today I flew to Boston to attend a week of management meetings at my company’s (Cadence Design Systems) offices in Chelmsford, Massachusetts.

Accustomed to fairly regular travel at that point in my life, this trip should have been a snap. Up in the morning to catch an early flight on Monday 9/10/11. Enjoy an evening to get settled for the week, then attend meetings Tuesday through Friday morning, and fly home Friday afternoon. However, when getting ready to leave home that morning, I had a strange and unsettled feeling that things weren’t going to be the same when I got back. In reality, this feeling had been with me for a few weeks. In late August of that year, I remember gazing out a window in our bedroom thinking, “something’s going to change soon, and I’ll look back and wish I could get back to this simple time.” This thought perplexed me, because I hardly thought of my life as simple at the time. But somehow I had a sense that I’d realize that the world “back then” was a kinder, gentler place.

Before I left my house for my flight, I kissed my husband good-bye. For the first time, saying good-bye before a business trip was difficult. I remember having tears in my eyes and having a nagging sense that I would miss our 20-year anniversary on September 19. This didn’t make any sense at all, since I was due to be home on September 14.

For the most part, my trip east was uneventful. There was, though, a point where the plane hit a bumpy space and had a slight drop. Nothing serious, but it caught my attention. I’m a pretty skittish flier, and anything other than smooth sailing gets my hackles up. I closed the book I was reading because I couldn’t concentrate through the bumps. I remember thinking gloomy thoughts, “there haven’t been any significant air disasters for quite a while. I wonder if, statistically speaking, it’s time for something horrible to happen.” These thoughts stayed with me until we landed. I never could get back to my book. I just couldn’t focus. In reality, it was about four years before I could focus on that book again.

Once safely on the ground, I got in my rental car and drove to my hotel. For the most part, I forgot about my concerns. I settled into my room and started preparing for my upcoming meetings. But for some reason, the minute I got my rental car, there was a brief moment when I quite literally wanted to pull over and kiss the ground.

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